December 14, 2017

Germany’s long term plan gets the recognition it deserves

Philipp Lahm holding aloft the World Cup trophy in the famous Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro was a fitting reward to recognise not just one of the finest footballers, but one of the best football squads assembled.

Recognition of a long-term project with meticulous planning to make this moment, this dream, become a conceivable destiny for a golden generation of players.

After the nadir of German football following the tumultuous Euro 2000 campaign and disastrous Euro 2004 tournament, change happened. A new plan put forward to ensure a bright future for German football, an idea to produce world-class players and be a source of inspiration for football the world over, to once again play the game at the highest echelons of international football.

Instigated by the motivational skills of the new German coach Jürgen Klinsmann and his astute tactical assistant Joachim Löw, the Deutscher Fußball-Bund (DFB) and the Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL) embarked on a cooperative project to improve the football landscape of German football. A style of play was preferred and the manner in how they would play was agreed. This filtered into the Bundesliga clubs and saw a greater domestic competition arise. The national side reaped the rewards of the project as the best players were harvested at a young age and given time to adapt, develop and progress at the highest level. All guided and educated by and abundance of new, fresh elite coaches.

The 2006 World Cup hosted in Germany was a success for Germany despite their heartbreaking last-minute defeat in the semi-final to Italy. The nation was once again proud to cheer die Nationalmannschaft and to wear and wave Germany’s colours. It was a turning of the tide.

Key, young players emerged in the likes of Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lukas Podolski. Germany were heading in the right direction.

Klinsmann stepped away as coach and Löw aptly took the reins. Germany centred around these young players, including Per Mertasacker and the evergreen Miroslav Klose, reached the final of Euro 2008. They were runners-up to Spain, at the beginning of their supreme reign of football.

The following year at the 2009 European Under 21 Championship Germany defeated England 4-0 in the final. Playing in that final in Sweden were Manuel Neuer, Benedikt Höwedes, Mats Hummels, Jérôme Boateng, Sami Khedira and Mesut Özil. This was the rich harvest envisioned.

The two squads merged into a young, fresh hungry unit. Added to this prior to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa was an unorthodox, gangly player. Thomas Müller.

During their time in South Africa they lit up the competition with resounding wins over England (4-1) and Argentina (4-0) before the nemesis was once again Spain, this time in the semi-final. Their attacking play on the counter was electric, while their new technical players were majestic. Müller claimed the golden boot award, aged 20.

This crop of players continued to be strengthened with players like Toni Kroos, Marco Reus, André Schürrle and Mario Götze who were all establishing themselves as wonderfully gifted players.

All of this talent bestowed the Bundesliga into the hearts and minds of fans as their football structure was lauded by many, to the envy of other leagues. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund epitomised this as they played out the first ever German Champions League final as Bayern famously won the treble.

German football, domestically and internationally, was loved.

Despite the setback of the Euro 2012 showing, Germany entered the World Cup as one of the favourites. A somewhat perilous pre-tournament and friendlies meant expectations dwindled. Was this plethora of talent ever going to harness their ability and claim a title?

This World Cup has shown how their magnificent talent has gelled with experience and maturity from the superbly serene purpose-built Campo Bahia. Die Nationalmannschaft have shown their resplendent football in victories over Portugal (4-0) and played one of the most amazing games of football ever in their 7-1 demolition of Brazil where they were peerless.

Encounters have been won when they’ve not been at their best against Algeria, France and the USA but showed a resilient and assurance in their game to make sure of the victory. The 2-2 draw with Ghana showed hunger and determination to get back on level terms.

It is these mental aspects that often get overlooked but have been an important ingredient to Germany’s development of game management. They have added mental strength, the psychology of the game, to their sumptuous football on the pitch.

Germany’s squad depth under the tutelage of Löw have played incisive counter attacking football, composed possession football and have been deadly from set-pieces. Their shaky defence is more assured with Lahm and Hummels in the back four while Neuer is the best goalkeeper in the world. Germany have formed a highly impressive collective unit. This is the best squad currently in the world, even without injured Marco Reus, Ilkay Gündogan and Sven and Lars Bender.

In the World Cup final against Argentina, now a trio of finals between the two, Germany finally picked up the World Cup they so deserved. One of their brightest talents in Mario Götze scored the sole goal with a moment of magic. For a golden generation who believed in their quality to succeed without a hint of arrogance.  This camaraderie embroiled with mental strength and style of play will resonate throughout Germany fans and the football world.

This was their time, a long-term plan which has served up a World Cup and had a lasting effect on many Germany and Bundesliga fans alike.

Where from here? Supremacy as they aim toward Euro 2016. The players will keep being nurtured and the Bundesliga will continue to provide the best footballing platform for the next generation to succeed on and continue to lead the way in all forms of football.

But for now, congratulations Germany, World Champions!

Follow Tom Rowland via @TWRowland

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