World Cup triumph just the start for Germany

Joachim Low's young squad can emulate Spain and dominate international soccer in the coming years following Sunday's World Cup triumph in Brazil.
RIO DE JANEIRO — Germany's World Cup triumph was not the product of a superb month of work in Brazil, but the culmination of 10 years of ingenuity, progressive coaching and constant improvement.

Rather than the end of a project, though, Joachim Low is already looking at it as the start of a new era. Germany had to wait 24 years between its third and fourth World Cups, but you sense the gap will be shorter next time.

"We want to play like Spain" has been the mantra during La Roja's dominance of international soccer in recent years but now everyone will be looking to the German blueprint.

The 1 billion euros of investment in youth structures and centers of excellence has reaped the ultimate rewards for Germany, producing a conveyor belt of top-class talents.

As if to highlight the depth of quality, the hero here at the Maracana on Sunday was Mario Gotze, a 22-year-old substitute who cost Bayern Munich 37 million euros and has largely been on the fringes for club and country over the past season.

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He has already sealed his place in history, but in the coming tournaments there will be opportunities for others. Dominance in soccer so often works in cycles, and there is no reason why Germany cannot emulate Spain and win consecutive tournaments.

Low certainly appears to be considering the possibility already.

"I think this title will give us a push for the future,” he said in his post-match news conference. "We don't have many players in the squad above 30, but look at Gotze, [Thomas] Muller, [Mesut] Ozil and [Marco] Reus … so there are a lot of players who can still achieve a lot in their careers."

It means that Germany will be able to recycle the squad. In every position, there is a young star coming through.

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For example, Germany has the best goalkeeper in the world in Manuel Neuer — winner of the Golden Glove in Brazil — and his deputies are so good that Barcelona's new goalkeeper, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, did not even make the World Cup squad.

The two center backs, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng, are both 25 and should be at their peaks for the next World Cup in Russia in four years' time. Gotze, Muller, Ozil, Reus, Ilkay Gundogan and Toni Kroos will all still be under 30 in 2018, as will Andre Schurrle, Julian Draxler and Christophe Kramer.

This is Germany's golden generation. The production line is so efficient that more will join them in the intervening period.

Indeed, by the law of averages you would expect Germany to at some point produce a top-class striker, the only obvious weakness in a squad that looked to 36-year-old Miroslav Klose to lead the line.

Meanwhile, rivals such as Brazil, Spain and Italy are all in states of flux and will be looking to rebuild after disappointing World Cups.

Low claimed before Sunday's victory over Argentina that his side would "play on top of the world for a good few years" even if it was defeated by the South Americans.

The Germany players showed why their coach was so confident with their performance at the Maracana. They needed a dramatic extra-time winner, but the best team in the world won the sport's greatest prize.

There is no reason why it will not be lifting more trophies in the coming years.