BERLIN – Rarely is a high-flying country brought back down to earth in a single night, but that is precisely what happened to Germany recently. In both football (soccer) and politics, the country had come to embody an unseemly mixture of arrogance and denial. It thought itself the measure of all things European, in terms of both the European championship and the European Union. In both cases, it was deceiving itself.
The same night that Germany was thrashed by the Italians in the championship’s semi-finals, German Chancellor Angela Merkel ran up against the limits of her own powers at the eurozone leaders’ summit in Brussels. Germany’s political course since the beginning of the euro crisis two years ago had left it isolated, and she was no match for an alliance of Italy, Spain, and France.