Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Germany: Potential World Cup Winners?

The German club teams have been a revelation over the past three seasons. They have dominated over their much fancied continental rivals, mostly punching above their weight. Yet, they now seem to be the dominant force, and suddenly everybody is queuing up to follow the German model. Built around a self-sustaining model, these clubs have been able to develop and nurture their own talent in a bid to grow a team rather than buy one, investing more than €100 million every year on their youth setup. So far their investment seems to be paying dividends.

Boasting some of the best young players in the world, the Bundesliga has become a breeding place for talented footballers much like the Dutch Eredevise. The biggest difference is that unlike the clubs in Holland, the German clubs seem more capable of holding on to their player due to the absence of the need to constantly balance the books by selling players. Unlike most other countries, especially Spain, the German clubs are making profits and the debt levels are remarkably low or at a sustainable level.

The young talent coming through the pipeline at the various clubs is quite remarkable and a lot of them have cemented their places in the first team at a very young age. The likes of Marco Reus, Andrea Schurle, David Alaba, Julian Draxler, Mario Gotze, Heung-Min Son, Sebastian Rode, Marc Andre ter Stegen, Nuri Sahin, Toni Kroos and Ilkay Gundogan have impressed immensely in the last 2-3 years and have either already made their move to or are in the process of being snapped up by European powerhouses.

That brings us to the question at hand: What are Germany’s chances of winning the World Cup in 2014? Following the strong showing of the two German clubs in this season’s Champions League, expectations are high especially considering the number of German players that played in the Final: 12 out of 22 starters were Germans, while another 6 were on the bench. Most of the young core that forms the backbone of the national team played in this showpiece event, barring Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil of Real Madrid.

The team is very young; the only player above the age of 30 is the 34 year-old Miroslav Klose, with the average age around the 25 years mark. Philipp Lahm (29), Bastian Schweinsteiger (28), Per Mertesacker (28), Lukas Podolski (28) and Mario Gomez (27) are the senior players in a team full of youngsters who have been playing with each other through the various age groups.

This group of players has the talent, grit and temperament to go out there and take on the best in the world and beat them at their own game. Barring their losses to Spain and Italy, they have been near unplayable on their day, destroying good teams on their way to the Euro 2008 final and the semi-finals of World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012.

The trump card for Germany though is not their crop of youngsters who have lead them to the cusp of qualification for the World Cup 2014; it is the mastermind behind the tactical success of the team, their coach Joachim Low. Low did not have the sweeping charisma of his predecessor Juergen Klinsmann, but the shrewd and capable tactician has become notable for continually introducing talented young players into his team, leading to a continuous rejuvenation of the squad.

The tactically astute German has built on his predecessor's work to make Germany not only one of the world most's successful teams but also one of the most watchable. Today, one to beat the opponent with a well-structured and thought-out way of playing, and that is exactly what Low has done. Germany has beaten the Netherlands, Argentina and England with a spectacular style of playing, and not just because they were better at tackling; that's the past. He has successfully changed the culture of the German national team, and now he can win the World Cup playing the same attractive football. With most of the other teams going through rebuilding phases of their own, the trophy it seems is ripe for the picking…