Michael Calvin on World Cup 2014: Germany are the new All Blacks

Joachim Low's side share numerous similarities to the all-conquering New Zealand rugby team

Prepare to park your prejudices and suspend your disbelief. The link between the All Blacks and the Germany football team which faces a moment of destiny in the Maracana is not as fanciful or as marginal as it may appear.

LIVE: Germany vs Argentina latest

Winning a World Cup is rarely a coincidence, and the requisite values minimise the distinctions between nations, sports and groups of athletes with a common cause. Comparisons across codes and continents are compelling and instructive.

The culture which enabled New Zealand’s rugby union icons to end a 24-year hiatus by becoming world champions in 2011 is so similar to that which underpins the attempts of Germany’s footballers to do likewise that it is indivisible.

Each espouses a collective mentality which diminishes the distractions of individual brilliance. The team is the star; the system is sacrosanct. They allow others to be diverted by mawkish sentimentality,  excessive emotion or an inappropriate sense of entitlement.

Read more: Messi with chance to emulate Maradona
Will Germany have an advantage because of extra rest?
How Germany conquered the football world

The All Blacks are so determined not to be enslaved by the cult of personality that  legends like captain Richie McCaw and outside-half Dan Carter take their turn to sweep the dressing-rooms. Personal discipline and humility becomes second nature.

Joachim Löw and his rugby equivalent, Steve Hansen, select on character in addition to talent. Thomas Müller passes the All Blacks’ “No Dickheads” rule; he may be a pivotal goalscorer, but doesn’t regard himself as a stellar celebrity. He has no  appreciable ego and is as happy to work for others, by pulling defenders out of position, as lead the line.


The best teams take up to a decade to develop through a process of continual  adaptation and marginal improvement. They are eclectic in their influences and invariably emerge from adversity. Germany’s tipping point was failure to win a solitary match at Euro 2004; the All Blacks hit rock bottom at the 2003 World Cup.

Jürgen Klinsmann began the process of renewal, with Löw as his assistant. Their blueprint featured players of innate intelligence, who could utilise their technique at speed, under pressure. They learned from the geometric precision of Spain’s passing and the physical intensity of the Premier League. They recognised the significance of the multi-ethnicity of the France team which won the World Cup in 1998. Just as the All Blacks recruited from the Pacific Islands’ diaspora, the Germans harvested Mesut Özil, Sami Khedira and Lukas Podolski from the Turkish, Tunisian and Polish immigrant communities.

Kiwi coaches studied fighter pilots, and used forensic psychiatrist Ceri Evans to understand how the brain works under stress. They defined two states of mind: “Red Heads” were players prone to panic and emotional interference; “Blue Heads” were those working at optimal levels, without disturbance.

The All Blacks celebrate winning the 2011 Rugby World Cup The All Blacks celebrate winning the 2011 Rugby World Cup  

The All Blacks developed a uniquely effective strength and conditioning programme; Germany’s squad at this World Cup, based at their own resort, are supported by the best analysts, scouts, nutritionists and physiologists. That conforms to the “Champions Do Extra” mantra of rugby role model Brad Thorn.

Mutual trust and respect evolves naturally: just as All Black selectors rationalise Ma’a Nonu’s occasionally indifferent club form, Löw is sufficiently comfortable to encourage Manuel Neuer to redefine the role of a modern goalkeeper, which has more in common with Franz Beckenbauer than Oliver Khan.

Both he and Hansen rotate their players intelligently. They use substitutes decisively. The examples they set are obvious, but will they be followed here, in England? Sadly, you know the answer to that as well as I do. We are an island race, with a loser’s mentality.


Barça’s Suarez sell-out

The language of oppression is used with such casual cynicism that words become meaningless. History is subverted so thoughtlessly that ideals are trinkets to be traded, and tradition is reduced to an exorbitantly priced commodity.

Liverpool may have come out of the Luis Suarez saga with a modicum of dignity, but Barcelona’s descent, from self-conscious custodians of a noble culture to shallow opportunists, is complete.

Luis Suarez has officially joined Barcelona for £75m Luis Suarez has officially joined Barcelona for £75m  

They continue to insist they are “more than a club”, as if they are somehow different. Yet shirts once deemed inviolable have been sold to Qatar. Their identity suddenly incorporates a serial offender, whose insincerity matches their own.

Vested interests are embodied by Alejandro Balbi, Suarez’s lawyer and go-to conspiracy theorist, who is also a Uruguayan FA board member. He speaks of rights being “violated” by a “blatantly draconian, totalitarian and fascist” sanction.

He insists “we only take care of Luis Suarez, the human being” but proclaimed the merits of a move to Real Madrid as recently as 31 May. That was then. This is now. The game has changed, and the money is down. The rest is merely sophistry.


Rooney proud to sell the shirt

Pre-season kit launches have lurched into self-parody. Stars scowl on cue, like minor characters in a mob movie which goes straight to DVD. They are well advised to remain  silent, but corporate duty occasionally dictates they must mouth a stranger’s slogan.

Manchester United's kit for the 2014/15 season Manchester United's kit for the 2014/15 season  

Wayne Rooney set new standards of banality for football’s fashion victims when he modelled Manchester Unted’s latest offering and uttered these immortal words to their Facebook fans: “The shirt belongs to you. It always has, it always will.” The truth is somewhat more prosaic. It has been recycled for the Asian market to justify an American car manufacturer’s £350million sponsorship, and entice Adidas to underwrite a new £750m kit deal. Glory, glory Man United?


Josh’s dream moves to India

The world was once at Josh Walker’s feet. He captained England at Under-17, 18 and 20 levels and won the FA Youth Cup with Middlesbrough. He scored for Aberdeen against Bayern Munich in the Uefa Cup, but there are no certainties and few fairytales in football.

He had eight loan spells, dropped through the divisions, and was finally released by Conference club Gateshead in May. Only 25, he has just signed for Indian champions Bengaluru. He will miss his two-year-old daughter, but is determined to provide for her future. Dreams must be paid for.

Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own