World Cup rivals Cameron and Merkel take time out from economic negotiations for key game

By Jane Wardell, AP
Sunday, June 27, 2010

Cameron, Merkel watch key World Cup match

TORONTO — British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel apparently had bigger concerns than just the world economy at the G-20 summit of world leaders on Sunday.

The pair ducked out of formal economic talks to watch the second half of the World Cup knockout game between their countries. Aides said they were glued to the TV screen during the match.

The match between the longtime rivals became steeped in controversy after the referee didn’t award a clear goal by England’s Frank Lampard, leaving Cameron’s team trailing 2-1 at half-time.

Germany’s Thomas Mueller scored twice in the second half to seal a 4-1 victory that put Germany into the quarterfinals and sent England packing with the sting of its most lopsided loss in a World Cup.

That was a severe blow for Cameron who earlier had told journalists he was “desperate for us to win.” England has not beaten Germany since it won the 1966 final.

England and Germany have long been bitter rivals on the football field, with past games colored by the pair’s shared political history and the tendency of England’s tabloid press to inflame tensions by referencing World War II.

But a major diplomatic spat appears to have been averted this time round. Merkel apologized for the phantom goal, telling Cameron she was “sorry about that,” his aides said.

The British leader also alluded to his team’s lack of form — with or without the goal controversy.

“The country will wonder ‘what if?’ after Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal, but it was a disappointing result,” Cameron said.

Cameron and Merkel weren’t the only ones to have been hit by World Cup fever here, with the tournament almost overshadowing the serious business of fostering economic recovery.

A number of TVs in both the pictureseque lakeside resort of Deerhurst in Huntsville, Ontario, where the G-8 met, and in Toronto, where the larger G-20 gathered, have been permanently tuned to the World Cup matches and commentary.

Political aides said there was much chatter among officials in corridors with leaders often beginning one-on-one meetings with an update on the latest turn of events on the pitch. Public statements of allegiance have been plenty.

South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak adopted former colonial ruler Japan to fly the footballing flag for Asia after his own country was eliminated by Uruguay in the Round of 16 on Saturday. He’s now pulling for Japan to beat Paraguay in their match on Tuesday to advance to the quarterfinals.

Cameron, meanwhile, enlisted Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi on England’s side after Italy, the defending World Cup champion, failed to advance by finishing at the bottom of its first-round group without a win. Cameron said Berlusconi was won over because England is coached by Italian Fabio Capello.

will not be displayed