Germany’s World Cup win should have been much more obvious from the off.
Logical thinking was clouded by the setting: no European nation had ever won a World Cup on South American soil. We were also led to believe that host nation Brazil would use that factor, as well as familiar surroundings and a partisan crowd, to their advantage, even with an uninspiring and ultimately poor squad.
We should have learnt from the previous winners. Spain, irrespective of their surprise collapse and early exit in Brazil, were an international dynasty built not through luck, but meticulous planning.
It hasn’t taken the football world too long. Germany, after their 1-0 win in the Maracana against Argentina, are already being talked up as the next team to dominate international football. The beginning of a new cycle.
They were not always totally convincing. Germany should have put a gutsy Ghana to the sword in the group stage, such was the gulf in talent between the two sides. But when they turned on the style, the opening win against Portugal and the devastating demolition of Brazil as stand-outs, they were comfortably the best nation at this tournament. The 7-1 win against Brazil set a marker. The trophy was theirs to lose.
The squad that Germany have created is the strongest in the world, nipping in ahead of Spain due to the age of key players in the former world champions and the obvious state of transition they’re set to experience. But it’s Germany’s supply line that is to be the envy of almost every country in the world.
Mario Goetze, the goal scorer on Sunday night, has struggled to dislodge Mesut Ozil, Thomas Mueller, and Toni Kroos from the starting XI. Yet someone as inspirational as the former Borussia Dortmund midfielder would walk into the Brazil team and guide them to something resembling a convincing World Cup win, as well as giving them a leader to lean on in helping to avoid that semi-final capitulation.
The final in the Maracana was a wonderful demonstration of Bastian Schweinsteiger’s leadership and courage; the reason why he’s referred to as fußballgott by adoring Bayern Munich supporters. Philipp Lahm is another exceptional leader and an even better player; Mats Hummels was the best centre-back at the tournament, a ball-playing, technically proficient centre-back; Thomas Mueller is so ludicrously reliable, so fantastically versatile that it would almost cheapen him to try and shoehorn him into one identifiable role on the pitch. He’s 24 and has 10 World Cup goals. And Manuel Neuer, the leader of the pack of high-class German goalkeepers; can there be any doubt that he’s the absolute best in the world after his performances in Brazil?
And that’s not even taking into account the peripheral figures. Think of those youngsters who will be regular starters in the future: Julian Draxler and Matthias Ginter.
Germany have done it the right way. Their football is excellent. Can we categorise it? Not really – and it’s perfect that way.
They play the possession football that has come to be known at Bayern Munich under Louis van Gaal and now further indulged by Pep Guardiola. In terms of retaining possession, the midfield and forward line is readymade for it. Counterattacks and high pressing can be equally effective and, as Brazil can attest, prove the basis of a relentless and destructive win.
When Christoph Kramer went off injured in the final, Toni Kroos moved back into the midfield to accompany Schweinsteiger and Lahm, who, despite being lined up as a right-back, quickly became another addition to the midfield.
Such variation and execution – a shape-shifting machine, perhaps – can only be gained through long-term planning and investment in the right places. There’s no quick fix, it takes something far more than an in-form new-kid-on-the-block to reshape the fortunes of a team on the international stage.
In Miroslav Klose, there was to be no obvious replacement – and no need for one – for the now legendary centre-forward, who will leave the international stage as the all-time top scorer at World Cup finals.
Take your pick from the midfield and forwards, all world-class talents. Klose aside, only Schweinsteiger, Lukas Podolski, Lahm, and Sami Khedira are over the age of 26. Marco Reus, 25, missed the tournament through injury. So too did Lars Bender, 25. Leon Goretzka, 19, Max Arnold, 20, Max Meyer, 18, and Kevin Volland, 21, should all be a part of the national team in Russia in four years.
Germany are too good for this to be the start and the end; Germany are too young for this to be the end, and that’s the key. There is no end in sight for this carefully constructed journey.