Mario Gotze’s 113th minute volley clinched a dramatic victory for Germany in Sunday’s World Cup Final, as the Germans overcame a resilient Argentina to claim their fourth World Cup title. Their victory, in wider terms, may signal a shift in the paradigms of worldwide player development.
With many established teams finding it challenging to meet expectations. much will be made in the coming weeks of the German model of football, which places a great deal of focus on youth development at both domestic and international level. This, having clearly resulted in the steady production of high-calibre players and well-drilled teams with a good mutual understanding, the product of good training and having played together in international youth sides, will likely be emulated by those footballing bodies seeking to improve their own national sides. Amidst reports of Brazil looking to supplement their domestic league with these steps – much of the assessment of Brazil’s national team has called attention to how many Brazilian youngsters are leaving for Europe at very young ages rather than learning and developing in Brazil (which, considering many of their better performers, including Oscar and the talismanic Neymar, remained in Brazil to learn their trade before moving elsewhere, seems a fair suggestion) – and calls for the FA to review youth policy in England, Germany’s impressive performances look as though they may prompt progress and development in youth development worldwide.
In a somewhat nervy encounter in which both teams had ample opportunity to secure the win it was, ultimately, the teamwork and organisation of the steadfast German team that provided the edge over their South American opponents. Characterised by disciplined and efficient play, Germany’s solidity – despite moments of quality from Argentina including an intercepted Toni Kroos back-pass which left Gonzalo Higuain bearing down on goal, only to flash his effort wide – won out over the individual brilliance of Argentina’s players, whose reliance on the flash and pace of Ezequiel Lavezzi and of course, Lionel Messi made them potent, if somewhat disjointed.
While the talents of the Argentinean forwards often showed promise – Higuain thought he had given Argentina the advantage in the 29th minute when he turned the ball in from an excellent Lavezzi cross, only to find his well-placed shot was scored from an offside position. The combined efforts of Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng (a particular stand-out, putting in a number of perfectly timed tackles) at the centre of defence, combined with the reflexes and athleticism of goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, rendered the German backline seemingly impenetrable.
It was in the midfield however, that the game was undoubtedly won. Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger expertly marshalled the game; a general in the midfield he dictated play, launching balls forward and winning back possession. He was matched in quality however, by Argentina’s Javier Mascherano, who performed a similar role with the same outstanding determination and skill. The game became almost a direct contest between the two midfield maestros, both of whom managed their back lines and orchestrated advances from deep inside their own halves. Germany’s edge came in their more complete midfield, which facilitated the complex and expertly implemented link-up play that gave them possession for a large portion of the match. Argentina, whose strength lies in their forward play and determined defence, were without the bridge between those two lines of play provided to Germany by Gotze, Kramer and the industrious Andre Schurrle.
Argentina, to their credit, made the match far more competitive than many had suspected following Germany’s entirely comprehensive 7-1 victory over tournament hosts Brazil, demonstrating an admirable defensive resoluteness only to be undone by the clinical precision of Gotze’s volleyed finish. Stalwart centre-backs Ezequiel Garay and Martin Demichelis were solid and uncompromising, while young left-back Marcos Rojo, although occasionally rash in the challenge, put in a versatile performance and contributed greatly both at the back and going forward. Manager Antonio Sabella, who had chosen before the tournament to step down following its completion, will see the game as a fitting epitaph to his time as international manager, and can be proud of his and his team’s performance.
How can other teams benefit from Germany’s model?