Football is a simple game. Twenty two men chase the ball for 90 minutes and, at the end, the Germans always win.” It was England legend Gary Lineker who coined this most memorable quote.
And with Germany winning their fourth World Cup title it has become a soccer truism. So what can we learn from the ingredients that went into Germany winning their first World Cup title since 1990?
Teamwork is everything
Although many sides excelled courtesy of their emphasis on the team game, Joachim Loew’s side was a cut above the rest.
The German coach faced a complicated tactical dilemma ahead of the Brazil tournament.
He had a choice to go with Borussia Dortmund’s counter-attacking style or Bayern Munich’s possession based football. Injuries to Dortmund stars Marco Reus, Marcel Schmelzer and Ilkay Gundogan made the choice easy.
Six or more Bayern players started all of Germany’s seven games, helping create a seamless winning machine. Just like Holland had done in the semis and Belgium in the quarters, the Die Nationalmannschaft were able to shackle Lionel Messi’s attacking threat and dominate the Argentines courtesy of teamwork.
The teamwork was additionally strengthened by the fact that non Bayern players in the starting line up had also played together for five years. For example, Manuel Neuer, Benedict Howedes, Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller, Jerome Boateng and Toni Kroos had all starred in Germany’s European U-21 Championship win in 2009.
Holland’s Louis van Gaal and Costa Rica’s Jorge Pinto also surpassed expectations by forging a similar approach.
Preparation is key
Success does not come by chance. Germany were the best prepared outfit.
Coach Loew said their success was a result of a ten-year master-plan that begun with their inglorious exit from the 2004 European Championships.
How many other teams have a similar blueprint? Not many. In the run up to the tournament, the DFB built their own camp in Brazil and players were encouraged to gel with colleagues from rival Bundesliga clubs. As a rule, apartments were distributed randomly to prevent players from developing cliques based on clubs.
The dividend was an unrivalled team spirit and unquenchable thirst for glory.
Academy systems work
A key component of Germany’s recovery has been development of grassroots football.
Loew and his predecessor Jurgen Klinsmann developed a master-plan which entailed all clubs having academies. The outcome has been a change in style for the better and an unprecedented influx of young talent.
In winning back to back European titles and the 2010 World Cup Vicente del Bosque’s Red Fury had benefited from Barcelona’s academy, with seven of the side that started both the 2010 final and 2012 European Championships finals being La Masia Academy products. Elsewhere, surprise quarter-finalists Costa Rica’s national side is filled with Saprissa Academy products.
Qualifiers a pointer
World Cup results proved you can’t try to gatecrash the party without a good build up to the tournament. The four semi-finalists – Argentina, Holland, Brazil and Germany not only topped their qualifying groups, they were unbeaten in the qualifiers.
Africa’s top performing representatives, Algeria, were equally impressive, going unbeaten in their build ups. Costa Rica meanwhile justified their status as the top North/Central American side whereas Colombia showed why they pushed Argentina for top place in the South American zone qualifiers.
W.Cup tops Champs League
The one-month soccer bonanza that was Brazil 2014 dispelled lingering notions that the Champions League is a superior competition to the World Cup.
We are mesmerized by the Champions League simply because club sides we support throughout the year play in the competition. If you have any doubts ask yourself one question: How many Uefa CL clubs would have been able to nullify the attacking threat of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi the way Germany did?
Going forward, in order to get the best teams representing the continent, the Confederation of African Football ought to change the qualifying format for the World Cup. Let’s have the top two teams in each of the five qualifying groups play in a Super 10 play-off. Maybe then we can have an African side in the Russia 2018 semi-finals.