It’s been a few days now since Germany deservedly won their fourth World Cup title. The team is back in Germany, was celebrated live by over 500,000 fans in Berlin and is now off on vacation. So now that we’ve all calmed down a bit (it might take me a bit longer), it’s time to reflect on this accomplishment, how the national team got to this point and what it all really means.
The first kick-start to what we witnessed on Sunday actually transpired in the summer of 2000. Germany had just been knocked out of the Euros in humiliating fashion by, of all teams, Portugal. It was an unmitigated disaster. It was time to act, and not just simply in a knee-jerk “let’s sack the manager” type of way as is the case in many nations, but in a “we need to change how we do everything” type of way.
German football simply wasn’t talented enough anymore. Too long had the DFB (German FA) been wresting on the laurels of the 1990 & 1996 generation of teams that had won World Cup and Euros titles. But it wasn’t simply a matter of the DFB changing it’s methodology, the German clubs were the ones that truly had to change. Developing a single national academy and training complex, along with changing the coaching schooling would do nothing. The clubs had to make immense contributions to the development of young German players, otherwise it would result in nothing (please take note of that England). They also needed to tap into the new immigrant generation of dual-nationals. But such a massive change would not happen over night. But as with anything Germans set their minds to, it would be done methodically, not with haste and to perfection.
Each club in the top two tiers of German football would be required to invest into youth academies and youth coaching to develop more and better German talent. The question still remained as to what type of talent; old school or new school? A second place finish at a weak 2002 World Cup glossed over some still existing short-comings, but another horrible Euros campaign in 2004 put the final nail in the coffin of the old ways. It ushered in the era of Klinsmann and Löw. They saw the possibility for a more attacking and technical brand of football. The first great talents of the new academy structure began to emerge at this time (e.g. Schweinsteiger, Lahm, Podolski), combined with already existing talented players (e.g. Ballack and Klose). In the much maligned lead up to the 2006 World Cup on home soil there were no expectations and many critics of this new way of doing things but the critics were wrong, dead wrong. The only thing stopping this new Germany from winning the title that year was a much more experienced and clever Italy side.
When Löw took over after that tournament, he continued the previously established vision of a more technical and attacking Germany, but the side was still developing. Their problem was that they ran into a Spain side in 2008 that was climbing its own summit of footballing rebirth, and Germany just weren’t ready yet. In 2010 it was once again the Spanish that ended Germany’s title dreams, but the continued development of world-class youth talent was clearly evident, as many members of that squad had won the 2009 U-21 Euros.