Another summer to remember? For Germany: so far so great.

The arc of Philipp Lahm's career has had the rhythm of someone meticulously ticking items off a bucket list. He won eight German championships with Bayern Munich, a team he supported as a child. He served as captain for six years. He led the club to the national and European treble. A year later, he captained Germany to victory in the World Cup.

Now, a few years after retiring, Lahm has become a respected figure in German football as a whole: intelligent, thoughtful, discreet by inclination but frank when required. He has held a handful of honorary and ambassadorial roles, but in 2020 he was given a real job, as tournament director of Euro 2024.

Yet for all he achieved, Lahm will always be remembered at home as the man who ushered in the Sommermärchen, the fairytale summer, of 2006. Everything that that year's World Cup became, everything it meant for Germany then and all it means for Germany now, he started with his goal in the debut match, here in Munich, against Costa Rica.

Germany, of course, did not win that tournament. The home team's run ended, from a technical point of view, in heartbreak. If anything, however, this increased the meaning with which it was subsequently imbued. For Germany, the 2006 World Cup has always been less about the result and more – in a surprisingly literal sense – about the friends it has made along the way.

After just one match of this year's tournament, it is too early to declare that the scorer of the hosts' first goal at Euro 2024, Bayer Leverkusen playmaker Florian Wirtz, is destined to follow Lahm's path.

Perhaps this crushing 5-1 victory against a committed but obviously overwhelmed Scotland will prove a false dawn. Perhaps one of Wirtz's teammates will end up dominating the tournament, or at least the German side, such that he becomes the central figure of the narrative. (Jamal Musiala, if you want a name.) Maybe Germany will win it all, the details lost in the tableau.

Tournaments, like butterflies, all have their own distinct colors and patterns, but they only begin to become clear when they emerge from the chrysalis. (Note: This may not be true of butterflies, but just accept it for metaphor purposes.) Nor do they stay the same. Over time they may shine, stain or fade.

That certainly was the case in 2006. Its shadow hangs over this tournament, a memory so perfect that the present seemed unable to compete. Germany remembers, poignantly, how happy it was then, and how unhappy it seems now, with a war not far from its borders, a stagnant economy and the far right on the rise.

But this is a trick of the light. Even in 2006 the country was restless, uncertain about how the tournament would go, uncomfortable with the idea of ​​celebrating in public. The situation changed only with Lahm's intervention. It was only then that Germany began to discern the colors of that bright, vivid summer.

The hope, therefore, must be that, regardless of where Germany's history ends, Wirtz's goal will have the same effect, 18 years later. This tournament will not solve any of the problems plaguing both Germany and Europe. No matter how bombastic UEFA's mission statements and slogans are, it is far too big a job for sport. It's not a panacea.

That doesn't mean it can't provide a welcome palliative in the coming month. Wirtz's goal, complemented by the next four, served to calm Germany's sporting nerves – the haunting feeling that humiliation on the pitch might be lurking – and that, for now, might be enough.

Despite all the worries, despite all the anguish, Germany has a glimmer of hope, the promise that something uplifting and happy and – in the best possible way – wonderfully mundane might awaken. It could be all it takes to help the country embrace the tournament: a sense that these could actually be a few weeks to remember.

Some thoughts to get started:

GET READY FOR FUN This is, I believe, the first men's tournament in nearly a decade that does not represent a major logistical operation for fans of most participating nations. The last two World Cups, in Russia and Qatar, have been financially taxing, practically challenging and morally complex. The previous European Championship, held across the continent, was strangled by travel restrictions.

Not since France, and Euro 2016, has being present at a tournament – ​​without necessarily attending the matches – seemed so simple. Germany is, as the slogan says, in the heart of Europe. The Netherlands and Poland will attract large caravans of fans following them, but a special mention also goes to the Scots.

Thursday morning I flew out of Manchester Airport (which, as you know, is not in Scotland). My flight, like the airport, was full of Scottish fans, most of them in full Scottish costume. This was especially surprising because my flight was headed to Rome. This was not the only Tartan Army detachment to take a tortuous route: on Friday there were, by some estimates, around 200,000 Scots in Munich. In other words, this is 4% of the country's population.

HOUSE OF ORANGE Just before leaving, my son and I met a neighbor who asked us which European Championship team had the largest Smith family support. He expected England, of course, or perhaps Scotland.

My son, on the other hand, proudly declared that for the next month he would be Dutch. I had to explain: my son is British, of course, but at age 6 a nation is still a fuzzy, indistinct concept. He supposedly is loyal to him on some level, but he doesn't feel it as immediately, as deeply, as he feels his loyalty to Virgil van Dijk's greater glory.

GO BACK HOME? Gareth Southgate's approach to the job of England manager is probably best summed up by how it might end. Regardless of how the (surprisingly) courageous team fares in Germany, there is a strong feeling that this could be his last tournament.

However, this decision should not be made hastily. Southgate's contract expires in December, an unusual amount of time for an international manager (generally working from one major tournament to the next). This is extremely Southgate – it gives both him and the English football authorities a chance to review and reflect on the right course of action once the euphoria/regret has settled.

Likewise, the fact that his employers have a succession plan in place is commendable. Less laudable is the suggestion that they would be more than happy to appoint a non-English manager to replace him. It is one of my few abiding beliefs that major footballing nations should not have foreign coaches.

That sounds bad, I realize, but rest assured it's not rooted in some Neolithic conservatism. International football is intended to test the strength of a country's sporting culture. If larger nations cannot produce good managers, then this is a flaw that should be addressed organically, rather than processing an import from a country that can. (Yes, Belgium and Portugal, I'm looking at you.)

USA 1, BRAZIL 1 If the preparation for the European Championship seemed relatively calm until the last moment, then it can be said with certainty that the looming Copa América is not yet present in the European imagination.

But that doesn't mean the United States' laudable draw with Brazil went unnoticed: if it seemed like a sign that the Seleção is still a work in progress, then it should offer Gregg Berhalter – and his team and his country – considerable encouragement for the tournament.

His reign, so far, seems devoid of a signature outcome: a proof of concept, a sign of what might come. Drawing with Brazil, while a bit anaemic, even in a tune-up match, isn't quite up to scratch. This suggests, however, that the Copa América could be the stage on which the United States can find one.

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