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German football 2014: It was fitting the country was crowned the world's best

There had been a feeling of anticipation in German football and success in Brazil made perfect sense.

PERHAPS THE KEY indicator came in the summer of 2013. Pep Guardiola had offers from everywhere yet he chose to begin a new chapter for himself in Munich. The smartest kid in the room wanted to go to Germany.

The timing was good. Bayern had just been crowned European champions. It was a statement of intent. There was plenty to build on for the ex-Barcelona manager. Intelligent, experienced players like Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger provided the stable foundations, there was the remarkable attacking nous of Thomas Muller while Manuel Neuer was a top-class goalkeeper (and solid centre-half when required).

It was fitting that all four were crucial in the national team tasting World Cup success twelve months later.

In many ways, it was the perfect finale to what had been a four-year cycle. Yes, Germany reached the 2008 European Championship decider and were narrowly beaten by Spain but the squad needed still needed fine-tuning and Joachim Loew believed in the youngsters who won the U-21 Euro title in 2009 and thought little of giving them an opportunity to stake their claims. Three of that U-21 team featured in Germany’s World Cup opener against Australia in 2010 – Neuer, Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil.

Brazil Soccer WCup Germany Argentina Source: Martin Meissner/AP/Press Association Images

The average age of the starting XI that day was 24.8. Only two players were over 30. It was the start of a new regime and on a fateful evening in Rio de Janeiro four years on, the German players and Loew finally got their reward for the dedication and hard work.

In the 2014 World Cup final, six players who had started against Australia four years before, took to the field to face Argentina. Had Khedira not been injured, it would’ve been seven. Mertesacker and Podolski were on the bench while selected at left-back was Benedikt Howedes – another member of that U-21 European Championship-winning side.

It was quite fitting that the World Cup-winning goal was scored by a youngster – Mario Goetze – yet another fine product of the country’s incredible youth system.

Source: KidShey/YouTube

In the build-up to the 2014 final, many dredged up a memory that most still shudder at: the 1990 clash in Rome, a game remembered for its sheer ugliness, physicality and pragmatism. But in Brazil, Germany’s clear philosophy, their style and purpose, was always likely to take them far. As the final edged ever closer and the teams were whittled down, it seemed inevitable that the host country would stand in their way at the semi-final stage.

And so it proved, though no-one could’ve imagined the carnage in Belo Horizonte that night. The episode may not go on to carry the same cultural and historical significance as Brazil’s 1950 World Cup final defeat but many were inconsolable that night, speechless and spiritless in the aftermath of what was a German masterclass.

Source: AJ-1994/YouTube

Muller, the impish nuisance, scored the first before the veteran Klose grabbed a second. Then, Kroos – a masterful midfield presence in spite of his formative years – hit a brace in three minutes. Khedira added a fifth. Inside the opening half-hour of a World Cup semi-final, Germany were beating Brazil by five goals. Andre Schurrle would add two more late in the second period and Loew’s side ran out 1-7 winners.

In the other semi, almost inevitably, Argentina won a shootout against Holland after a dull and uninspiring 120 minutes of action.

There was a flow to Germany, an ease, a magic. They had a collective spirit – theirs was a group of like-minded players that had tasted various levels of success for five years. But a World Cup would mean immortality, a neat full-stop for some.

Soccer - FIFA World Cup 2014 - Final - Germany v Argentina - Estadio do Maracana Source: Nick Potts/EMPICS Sport

And so it proved. For romantics everywhere, the sight of Lahm lifting the World Cup trophy made perfect sense. In a football world blighted by cynicism and ruthlessness, his doctrine was based around the fact that talent is never enough and that without hard work, determination and dedication, a player will always fall short of fulfilling expectation.

But, despite Lahm being the model pro, he was nothing without his team-mates. And that’s the biggest success story of Germany’s World Cup win: the team ethic, the common bond, the group identity. Spain had it for four years and won three trophies. Loew’s side have developed something similar and will fancy their chances of another title in two years time.

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About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan

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