Last Sunday evening, a specific plan formed well over a decade ago finally came to fruition. It may have taken them 24 years to win another World Cup, but Germany have always been the side to beat.
A quick look over their history tells you that they have reached the last eight of 16 consecutive World Cups. The numbers are simply staggering. They have played in at least one final in each of the past seven decades. Come 2022 or 2026, that run may be extended.
They have played in at least the semi-finals of the last five major tournaments. There is irrefutable proof of progress.
German football, once deeply unfashionable, has become trendy over the past decade. England, and to a lesser extent Ireland, are always advised to imitate the vogue team; if that happened, our style would either be a seductive blend of Brazilian, Argentinian, French, Spanish, German, Italian and Dutch styles or a complete mess fashioned by conflicting theories and lacking coherent thinking. The latter, of course, is nearer the truth.
The point is not to slavishly, witlessly copy everything, but to say that Germany remain the best role models. Not just for Ireland and England, but for everyone. They have first-world resources, a large population and a willingness to learn but none of that is explanation enough for Germany’s never-ending excellence.
The technical expertise, implemented from an early age, helps account for a younger generation’s assurance in possession. A winning attitude is an age-old asset. This team revolves around its midfielders. Every German side benefits from its mindset. It is often epitomised by their prowess from the penalty spot.
There was something suitable in a substitute, Mario Goetze, getting the winner. Die Mannschaft is never just about one man. Football on our shores has a superstar complex, the German game a team ethos. It is one of their great merits that they never seem to get caught up in the cult of the individual.
The achievements of Klose, the big-game mentality of Thomas Muller, the capacity of Philipp Lahm to be world class in three positions, the prodigious passing of Toni Kroos, the sweeper-keeper Manuel Neuer’s supreme reliability: each, where they English, would have seen him placed on a pedestal, been overhyped and, in all probability, then underachieved. In a German context, they seem high-calibre cogs in a well-oiled wheel.
There are lessons to be learned from the driver, too. Joachim Low was unearthed by Jurgen Klinsmann, who was looking for an assistant, and promoted to the top job in 2006.
He does not have an outstanding record at club level but his talents have been well deployed in the international game. The FA and the FAI, who threw money at Giovanni Trappatoni, Sven-Goran Eriksson and Fabio Capello only to discover they were better suited to Serie A than World Cups, ought to consider that the best man for the job isn’t necessarily a big name.
It is not merely the results. Low has helped rebrand German football. An ethos underpins this team. Germany have acquired passing principles to accompany their mental and physical strength.
They have cheap tickets and packed stadia, often capable of accommodating huge numbers with supporters who provide a visceral, vociferous, yet friendly, atmosphere.
Football without the malice and the exorbitant cost and with a consistently high goals-to-game ratio: what’s not to like? Factor in the prowess of the national team and the production line of young talent and it is entirely admirable.
German football isn’t perfect. Bayern Munich’s financial and footballing dominance in the Bundesliga contrasts with, arguably, a more competitive Premier League. The division lacks the strength in depth – although the upside is that mid-ranking clubs know a fourth-placed finish and Champions League qualification is not an impossible dream – and it certainly doesn’t have the same worldwide appeal as its overbearing English rival.
But when Goetze, the seventh Bayern player on the pitch, volleyed an exquisite winner, it was hard to find fault. Deutschland are uber alles once again. It is no coincidence.
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