Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 comment: Germany’s journey to glory founded on unique mentality
If this was an ultimate destination then it’s a trip that began 20 years ago
Sunday 13 July 2014
It’s a strange exclamation mark at the end of a tournament of free and flighty moments. From Neymar’s and Messi’s flitters of brilliance and Brazil’s six-minute meltdown to the African embarrassment and Costa Rica’s penalties, it’s been wild, weird and for the most part wonderful. Tonight was a different sort of wonderful and while it’s not to take away from the game itself or the attacking football that Germany offered up as expected, it’s just that their journey this far isn’t representative of what’s gone before. After all the positive and negative passion and emotion, theirs is an effort of pure planning and the fruits of the intricate and organised system they put in place.
Even in the chances created, you got the sense of contrast on offer. While Ezequiel Lavezzi, before his withdrawal, and Lionel Messi provided the natural and the unexpected, Thomas Müller and Toni Kroos provided the learned. And for all the Germans’ movement, intricate passing and attacking dazzle that was evident from the early stages as they prodded and probed at the Argentinian massed defence, there was a sense of training ground planning to much of it. That’s not to take away from their talent and threat, but it’s a misplaced narrative we are left with and what other nations now must take note of as they look to follow suit in order to get so far.
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If this was the ultimate destination, then it’s a trip that began twenty years ago and even in the vast shadow of a final, the method shouldn’t be lost in all the madness. If 1994 was noteworthy for being the first time they hadn’t reached a semi-final of a major championship since 1984, then 1998 was noteworthy for the manner in which Croatia took them apart and how poor that team looked. By 2000, 50 per cent of the Bundesliga was made up of foreign players but in the background, their association vice-president Franz Beckenbauer, manager Erich Ribbeck, Bayer Leverkusen general manager Reiner Calmund and director of youth development Dietrich Weise invented a new concept for producing young footballers. They are the players we saw here and that have seen Germany rise from their ashes.
As football evolved, it’s a concept that had to go against much of what traditional German football had been about. The game had outgrown them but with revolution and evolution, they’ve again put themselves towards the head of the pack. For all their attacking talent though there have been question marks over their defenders and Joachim Löw’s ability to set them up. They were opened up in this final throughout, especially down the left where Benedikt Höwedes – a player it had been hinted was the weak link – struggled badly. His positioning was off on several occasions and the fury that came at him resulted in a sense of panic around much of his play.
The side that had conceded the most of any top-placed European side across qualifying looked porous on the back foot as they’ve done so often. Portugal had chances before the opener and the sending off, Ghana rattled them, the United States frustrated them, Algeria scared them and France tested them. And while the move of Phillip Lahm had seemed to splash water on a fire, it was the other flank that Argentina were most dangerous down and made them look so unsure.
Read more: Germany 1 Argentina 0 as it happened
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Germany's journey to glory founded on unique mentality
If the much-talked about Belgian model of player development next door had a policy of putting winning last and individual growth first, in Germany they took a different approach. In their eyes, a winning mentality matters and current under-21 manager Horst Hrubesch alluded to it before they arrived here. “When we won the under-21s European Championship in 2009 we had a lot of players with a great mentality like Manuel Neuer, Sami Khedira or Jerome Boateng. The boys must gain the experience to win at youth level so that they get hungry for success. Our current generation in the national team has many players who have won the under-21s, under-19s or under-17s at European level and also trophies at club level. They know what’s necessary to win a tournament.”
But while it was a style that saw them arrive in Rio last night, then it was also a style that railed against the freedom and the unknown that had made this World Cup one of the most entertaining.
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