Every four years, the hopes of millions of fans ride on their respective teams as they make a bid to be crowned World Champions. Unfortunately, the road to the top is strewn with millions of broken hearts when the one last team is left standing after the final.
2014 was no different as world footballing superpowers converged on Brazil to vie for supremacy with vastly contrasting modus operandi for accomplishing their mission. Some hoped the prayers and passion of a nation will carry them despite selection blunders, coaching bungles, unfortunate injuries, and David Luiz. Some bet it all on one talisman making it unfair for both the talisman and the team, and in the end have to reconcile the somewhat ironic truth that that talisman was chosen as the best individual player of the tournament but the team finished distinctly second best. Some blazed a bright trail of flair only for it to fizz out way before the end like a firework over the Copacabana on a particularly revelrous night. Some others had history weighing them down, whether it be their record of near misses in final matches or in penalty shootouts.
And then there is Germany.
They of impeccably rehearsed game plans. They of early acclimatisation in Brazilian conditions (I do a weekly football podcast, and in our World Cup preview episode we had pointed out that Germany’s meticulous preparation for Brazilian conditions makes them one of the favourites). They of booking their hotel in the more tropical areas of Brazil rather than cooler resorts which is what other teams did. The South American teams supposedly had an advantage given their familiarity with the conditions but given as most key players play in Europe anyway, it was starting from scratch for almost everyone. As usual, Germany looked for the marginal edge.
Their winning the World Cup is no accident. In fact, as with most things German, things are supposed to happen by design rather than accident in their football too. A decade long program by the DFB, the German football federation, and meticulous planning are at the heart of a most convincing triumph. As manager Joachim Loew put it: “We started this project 10 years ago, so this is the result of many years’ work.” Embarrassed and embattled by the group stage exit in Euro 2000, the DFB decided to do the classic German thing – find a more efficient way to do something. Rather than just have clubs run their own academies and unearth talent, it sort of centralized the process by launching its own program and focusing on finding and nurturing homegrown talent. The dividend paid itself in the form of the trophy (United Germany’s first World Cup) that Philip Lahm held aloft at the Maracana yesterday night.
It was a perfect microcosm of all that German football had been building towards when young (and homegrown) Mario Gotze replaced the veteran Miroslav Klose and produced a wonder touch for the winning goal. After scoring the goal with 7 minutes left in extra time, he went to Manuel Neuer, the goalie who won the golden glove at this World Cup, and simply told him ‘Now you do your job’. That is the root of the German philosophy – everyone has a role; everyone works as a team (the DFB program not only develops skills but from an early age imparts tactical knowledge too).
And at the end, as Gary Lineker so famously put it, Germany wins.