Sunday, July 13, 2014

The final: Germany

Germany has us all in awe. As a football fan they are impossible not to like. And I like them. Had it not been that they are playing Argentina, I would probably have been supporting them against anyone else.
It has been a joy to watch Germany develop its football over the last 12 years. They threw away the tight discipline and hierarchies that had given them so much in the 20th century, and developed a football that fit into the Germany of the 21st century; organized and tactically well-founded, but at the same time with flair and offensive pressure. They took the best of the Spanish tiki-taka and assimilated it into the German style, something that Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich have been practicing.
Watchers of the German league will know that it is a league with a lot of attacking, goals, and young talent. In the early 2000s German football implemented a plan to develop youth talents with a  focus on skills rather than muscle. The mayor clubs all signed up for it, and the result was a wave of European u-17 and u-21 titles. In 2009 they won the u-21 European championship in awesome style defeating England 4-0 in the final. Six players from that team are playing today: Ozil, Khedira, Neuer, Howedes, Hummels and Boateng (as an anecdote, Fabian Johnson, now playing for USA, was also part of that team).
At the same time they have some of their former greats in Miroslav Klose and Bastian Schweinsteigger, who both played the World Cup final of 2002, and so they build bridge between the old and new Germany.

Germany have been splendid throughout: they started with a complete trashing of Portugal, which was basically enough to win them the group, despite struggling against Ghana and winning 1-0 against the USA in a match where the Americans were more than happy to be defeated. They struggled against Algeria, who showed some of the German weaknesses, but were then systematic in defeating France with relative ease (the French never really threatened them), and then the historic trashing of Brazil has made them the best team of the tournament.
The Germans know they are favorites, but they also know they need to concentrate against a well-organised Argentine side with players who can decide a match in a moment of brilliance. Mats Hummels has been a fantastic defender ahead of Manuel Neuer, whom I rate as the best keeper of the tournament (closely followed by Sergio Romero). Phillipp Lahm should be back as right full back, with Sami Khedira, Bastian Schweinsteigger and Toni Kroos, supporting the flow of Ozil and Thomas Muller, surely form the best midfield of the tournament, and could completely dominate the Argentine midfield, although it is not likely they will penetrate as easily the Argentine lines as they did with Brazil.
Germany must remain concentrated to win. If anyone can do it, it is the Germans. At the same time, they could lose, but if they do, they should still be admired for what they have done.

As an Argentina fan, I will be disappointed, but know there is no shame to be defeated by such a splendid Germany, and I would celebrate with all German fans!

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