Yesterday was a historic day in world football as we saw a performance by the German’s that will go down in World Cup history. Coming into the match against the Brazilians, fans across the world expected a competitive, drama-filled match.
Coming into the semi-final, Brazil was psychologically discombobulated as they were without their captain, Thiago Silva, and their icon, Neymar Jr. There is no question that missing Silva and Neymar was a huge blow to Brazil’s tactical plan; however, we cannot use that as an excuse for Brazil’s loss, belittling the German’s remarkable performance. Surely the German’s showed their class, but yesterday was the true culmination of rebuilding the German Football Federation did since their disappointing showing at the 2000 European Championships.
Joey Barton, a professional English footballer for Queens Park Rangers, does an exquisite job explaining the complete restructuring of the 1st and 2nd divisions in German Football to produce better technical and tactical players at http://www.joeybarton.com/have-the-germans-created-a-footballing-blueprint-for-the-next-generation/. In summary, part of the restructuring involved the German Federation requiring each club in the top two tiers to build a youth academy complete with a certain number of fields, indoor training facilities, massage therapy, and physical coaches. In addition, each academy must consist of at least 12 players, who are eligible to play for Germany.
One of the greatest aspects of the World Cup is the opportunity for each country to exhibit a style of play that they feel best expresses the art of football. As history shows, the German’s have been known for their fierce counter attacks and tough, physical defending. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund best represented this approach in 2013, when the two German clubs faced off in the Champions League Final. Under Jupp Heynckes in 2013, Bayern won the German Cup, Bundasliga, and the Champions League with a counter-attacking style of play.
The German’s ability to counter-attack with pace, precision, and power is truly remarkable, but since the 2002 World Cup, the German’s have not been able to reclaim their position in the World Cup Final. However, they were able to reach the 2008 European Championship Final, where they lost 1-0 to Spain. Nonetheless, Germany has been eliminated in the semi-finals in 3 out of the last 4 major international competitions. Some countries would see those results as successful showings, but not Germany.
Last year, the German’s took their reconstruction to the final step as Bayern Munich went out and lured the great Pep Guardiola to take the reins of the German giants. Guardiola has been widely viewed as the coach, who revolutionized world football with the mesmerizing football style executed by his FC Barcelona team, during his 4-year tenure as the Club’s head coach. I suppose winning 14 trophies in 4 years classifies as a successful stint. There is no question that Guardiola’s methods have leaked into the German National Team’s play, as 7 of 23 players on the World Cup roster play for Bayern Munich.
As I watched the game yesterday, I saw a German squad that performed as a well-oiled machine, able to do whatever they wished on the pitch. A national team that expressed themselves in a way true to their beliefs, sprinkled with a few added tricks. Defend as a unit with strength? Yes. Pounce on mistakes by the Brazilians and counter with fury? Absolutely. Show technical bliss and creative tactical awareness? You bet. Show ruthlessness in front of goal? Oh, yeah.
Whether or not the German’s go on to win the World Championship remains to be seen; however, we should take a minute to truly appreciate how the German’s have restructured their system to help their national team propel forward. Other nations should use the German’s as a reference if a restructuring is in their future. Hint, USA, hint!