In the run in to Germany’s opening World Cup match against Australia on Sunday, new captain Philipp Lahm was quick to point out that confidence within the squad was very high and that their emerging stars were more than capable of setting ‘the world alight’. Four goals later and it seems his words were not completely without merit.
“We are a young and hungry team. It’s noticeable at every training session [that] the team trains with great enthusiasm and tempo. Being part of a World Cup is a key event in anyone’s life and we want to hit the ground running.”
They did just that with a thumping 4-0 victory over Australia. Yes, Australia were poor; but Germany were also very good. Germany entered the World Cup with its youngest squad in 76 years due to a mixture of injuries, form and Joachim Loew’s desire to integrate young talent. Their single striker system highlighted a good balance that exists between the attacking quartet and defensive pivot of the team. Lahm, himself only 26, is a veteran in the squad and articulated a difference in the German play that we all were privy to in their victory:
“We have more players who are able to win one-on-one situations, more players who are technically strong and more players who enjoy having the ball – so [there are] fewer ‘typically German’ players, and that is really good for us.”
It has been commented that the diminished number of ‘typically German’ players may in part be down to 11 of the 23-man squad not being from German heritage. Ozil’s parents are Turkish. Marin is Bosnian by birth and plays alongside Ozil in Werder Bremen’s midfield. And Khedira, whose father is Tunisian, was given his World Cup debut to fill the not-so-small shoes of an injured Michael Ballack. It may just be a coincidence but it does go some way in reflecting the German team’s playing style becoming more multi dimensional: these players all add a rounded, less predictable and more attacking dimension to the traditional tenets (power, strength, and efficiency) of German football. Then again, these young players are all German and it is their talents that have been nurtured well – not their nationality.
Loew’s willingness to assimilate future stars into the present squad is brilliant to see. Six of his players come from the German U21 European title winning team from 2009. The squad has an average age of under 25 and only three players over the age of 30. Podolski (25), Schweinsteiger (25), and captain Lahm (26) are three of the most experienced members in the team and, between them, hold a staggering 213 caps. Don’t let age fool anyone: these guys are still young but by no means inexperienced.
Whilst it is important not to be carried away by an opening game victory against a relatively poor Australia team, this should not detract from the refreshing and implicitly faithful stance that Loew has taken with the national side. The coach himself admits the team is still a few years off from being the finished article but he is providing his young players with vital experience on world football’s biggest stage.
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