From heartbreak to nerves of steel: Germany mature into deserved champions

Following another business-like win, this time in the 2014 World Cup final, Goal's Brendon Netto lauds Germany for their growth from a side of potential to champions.

     BY BRENDON NETTO     Follow @BrendonNetto

For many, the 2014 World Cup final was destined to be Lionel Messi’s moment, his claim to unparalleled glory. Instead, it was the player they call ‘the German Messi’ who stole the headlines. Having scored the only goal after 120 minutes of grueling football, Sunday night is one which will live long in Mario Gotze’s memory.

At just 22, the Bayern Munich player may not fully appreciate the magnitude of his crucial goal in every aspect. Not only did it make him an instant national hero by landing them football’s most coveted prize, but it also realized a dream that was in the making for a long time as far as some of his teammates are concerned.

Of course, every budding footballer dreams of winning the ultimate trophy in this beautiful game but for the likes of Lukas Podolski, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Phillip Lahm, this was arguably their final shot at it after falling short previously.

The moment that won it all

Germany have come a long way from being an exciting side, brimming with potential to one boasting seasoned superstars and now world champions.

In the 2010 World Cup, a young and vibrant Germany set the tournament alight. A tactically astute Italian side got the better of them in the semi-finals four years earlier and in South Africa, they were halted at the same stage again, by the all-conquering Spaniards.

Now Joachim Low has finally led Germany to the promised land after taking over following the 2006 World Cup when he assisted Jurgen Klinsmann. It’s been a steady but assured rise to the top for the Europeans.

They looked the part in previous editions too but this time around, they approached every game with the utmost organization and competence. They were composed throughout and focused on getting the job done.

Against the Argentines, there was a notable drop in the intensity of their pressing and fluidity in their attacking play. They still created chances but were mindful of maintaining their shape throughout. Hence, they often resorted to crosses, attempting 25 when they only attempted 20 in their 7-1 thrashing of Brazil. They knew opportunities would come their way and were keen to limit their opponents.

Low and his troops reach the promised land

"The team stayed calm and patient, we knew that we had something left at the end."

- Phillip Lahm

Predictably, the Germans largely dictated the play, retaining 64% of possession. Despite Messi’s beating of Mats Hummels on a couple of occasions and the chances that fell to Gonzalo Higuain and Rodrigo Palacio, Argentina failed to register a single shot on target. All the composure was clearly on Germany’s side.

Fittingly, Gotze’s effort encapsulated Germany as a whole as it required the highest composure and a touch of sheer class. Where a lesser or more anxious player would’ve taken the easy option and attempted a glancing header, the former Borussia Dortmund man chested the ball and then struck it past Sergio Romero on the volley.

What should always be remembered about this particular triumph is that it was earned the hard way. Germany started from scratch, re-building their entire youth infrastructure to focus on producing technically proficient players. This 'Golden Generation' didn't just come about by chance, it's a result of meticulous planning and smart investment.

Since 2002, Germany have made it to the final four of the tournament and have now succeeded in their quest to be crowned champions. At the turn of the century, they reorganized their youth structure and maintained continuity in the national squad after 2004. They’re now reaping the benefits and rightly so.

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