BERLIN For globetrotting Germans who love to travel and love soccer, the World Cup in Brazil could be about as close to paradise as many might come.
Some like Alex Schmeichel and six friends will spend 10,000 euros ($13,700) each - some taking out loans worth as much as a small car - to follow Germany around Brazil next month when the three-time World Cup winners try to win an elusive fourth title.
"It's money well-invested," said Schmeichel, who works in public relations in Berlin. "It's an investment in our good health. We'll have a great time cheering Germany to the title and we'll come back refreshed and more productive in our jobs."
But Schmeichel and police officer Matthias Mueller, fitness trainer Lars Knobel, student Marius Purschke, property manager Tino Knobel, soccer coach Stephen Howaldt and Dirk Warner do not want to think of the hangover they might get if Germany fall short again. Winners in 1990, Germany lost the 2002 final and were knocked out in the semi-finals in 2006 and 2010.
With typical German thoroughness, the friends began planning for their five-week Brazil holiday more than a year ago. Last September they booked their accommodation and flights.
Germany are in Group G along with Portugal, Ghana and the United States. Their group matches will be staged in Salvador, Fortaleza and Recife.
"We're all confident the soccer god will be with Germany this time around," said Schmeichel, 39, who once played for third division side Reinickendorfer Fuechse in Berlin. "We've been meticulously planning the whole thing for over a year."
While Germany is considered a wealthy country by most standards, the average annual wage of ordinary workers is 34,000 euros. So many German fans heading for Brazil could be spending a quarter to a third of their annual salary for the World Cup.
"It might seem a little crazy," said Mueller, who also coaches in Berlin. "But it's the highlight of the year. We all love to travel and even if Germany gets knocked out we'll keep the party going with the other soccer fans there."
German fans bought more than 50,000 tickets and there will be more Germans in Brazil than from any other European country.
Schmeichel - who followed Germany with a similar determination at Euro 96 in England, the World Cups in 1998 and 2006 - said there could be a hitch if Germany fail to win their group.
"If Germany only end up second in that group, we'll have do juggle some flights and bookings," he said. They already have tickets for the group matches and are optimistic they'll be able to buy tickets for Germany matches in the knockout rounds.
"We set a limit for how much we'll pay but we always end up paying more at the stadium," he said. "We can't afford astronomic prices. But we'll be there and we'll want to see the matches so we know we're going to have to open our wallets."
(Reporting By Erik Kirschbaum; editing by Justin Palmer)