Will Germany finally come of age in 2014?
by Sean Taylor
I usually tend to avoid making bold predictions in football, because they tend to blow up in my face. But every once in a while a writer of any level has to take that subjective plunge into the unknown and face the proverbial music if things don’t come to pass. So here goes: I have a niggling suspicion that the Germans are going to conquer Rio next summer.
Usually when I make these educated guesses it involves the Italian national team, because they’re the national team I know best. I walk around proudly announcing to whoever would listen that in November 2005, I predicted their World Cup win. Or what I consider my finest piece of writing yet this article on the eve of their Euro 2012 semi-final last June, but I digress.
What about the German national team that suggests that they may finally go past the semi-final road block and finally win something? Die Mannschaft have lost two major finals and have gotten to the semis on three different occasions at major tournaments since 2000. It seems a sickening pattern of falling short is emerging here. I think however it’s more useful to observe the growing strength of the Bundesliga.
Apart from the recent surges being made in Europe by Borussia Dortmund, the odd Schalke and of course that team from Bavaria, the financial side of the German league is testament to that strength. All the German clubs are financially secure, as mandated by the DFB.
Since the debacle of Euro 2000, the German FA made it their duty to discard the antiquated formula of using creaking, ageing professionals. They had a vision for the future; even if meant the Mannschaft suffering for a couple years, which they did.
They invested in the grassroots level, developing young players in the Ajax Youth Academy mould. It wasn’t a coincidence that Klinsmann was able to call upon the first members of the German golden generation with Schweinsteiger, Podolski, Mertesacker and Huth coming up through the ranks.
Germany has always been known for their emphasis on professionalism and power-football displays. However, ever wonder what would happen the moment they decided to incorporate technically excellent players who still have the steely mettle and much-stereotyped German efficiency? Well, the recently crowned German Champions did dish out a painful 9-2 footballing lesson on Hamburg; who isn’t the kind of team you take advantage of.
Last two seasons neutrals enthused over Dortmund and their precocious juvenile delinquents. However since their German Cup defeat to the same team, Bayern has taken a stranglehold on the domestic game. If they play their cards right, they may be doing the same in Europe this year; especially since there isn’t one park-the-bus team remaining in the mix. Wait am I forgetting something? Oh yes, Pep is on the way.
Bayern is legitimately the scariest team in Europe, and this is still before the ex Barcelona boss takes over the reins at the end of the season. Now I know I’m being a bit presumptuous; we don’t know for sure whether Pep’s alchemy is going to have the same effect on this team as it did in Catalunya. However with a team playing that kind of football, they seem ready for the next step; having Guardiola and tiki-taka on the horizon couldn’t be a bad thing.
The German turnaround in their club system has obviously benefitted the national team. Quite similarly the same can be said about Spain. Not only have they become a better team from the Barça and Real brigade, but the players who went abroad in the EPL and evolved as a result (Silva, Fabregas).
In the case of Germany their local teams are producing the goods, and their overseas players are in the right places Özil and Khedira with Madrid, Mertesacker and Podolski at Arsenal. Hey let’s not forget Klose in Italy, playing in a league more suitable for his age.
Guardiola may indirectly have a hand in placing the final pieces of the German puzzle together, or not. The point is one can’t help but agree that the time is swiftly approaching where Germany is going to add silverware to their cabinet for the first time since 1996. Let’s see if they prove me right.