As holders of the World Cup, Confederations Cup and under-21 European Championships it’s fair to say that Germany is a powerhouse of world football. How did a diamond chart become all conquering behemoths they are today?
A dismal showing at Euro 2004 saw Germany crash out, finishing bottom of their group. It was partially blamed on Erich Ribbeck’s consistency on playing 39-year-old loads of muscles as a sweeper. This brought about a major sea change on a fundamental level in German football. The powers-that-be were forced to evaluate whether they were getting the best out of their resources leading to a major overhaul of the country’s footballing infrastructure.
This process saw the construction of 52 centres of excellence and over 350 regional coaching bases. Coaches hone in on developing the next generation of forward-thinking ways to play the game while children as young as 8 years old were encouraged to focus on technical ability and tactical intelligence. The results were clear for all to see in 2014 as Germany won their fourth World Cup. With more small technically gifted attacking midfielders and they knew what to do with, Germany switched between 4-2-3-1 and a pioneering false 9 formation, most notably during their 7-1 demolition of hosts Brazil in the semi-finals.
In a similar vein to Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich side of the time, Germany didn’t rely on traditional strikers and only brought two to the tournament. One of them was Miroslav Klose. He broke the all-time World Cup goal scoring record during the tournament. But it was Mario Gotze’s unorthodox positioning and movement that created a space for the winning goal of the final against Argentina.
With most of the stars of the 2014 World Cup winning side in their late twenties, the German Football Federation took the decision to give them a break and developed a more experimental inexperienced squad at the Confederations Cup. Despite only having two Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund players in their ranks for the tournament, Germany swept to another victory. Playing mostly a 3-4-3 or 3-5-2, Joachim Low’s team was fluid and tactically mature as you’d expect. Another strength was squad depth to mix things up on a match by match basis.
Low used Julian brand and Jonas Hector as attacking wing backs against weaker opposition, but employed the more defensively solid Joshua Kimmich against Chile’s dangerous attack in the final. The young Bayern man is the embodiment of the ideal German player: versatile, technically superb, and capable of scoring goals. It’s no wonder he’s been sitting as a natural replacement for the narrow side Philipp Lahm.
The blueprint for the under-21 side success at the European Championships that summer was broadly similar. Aggressive in the press, dynamic in possession, quick to overload the opposition with the resolve and big game mentality which of course so then win a penalty shootout now shall narrow games on their way to glory. With Germany already a regular fixture in the latter stages of competitions and almost three separate teams now with major tournament success firmly under their belts, the future looks very bright indeed.
Constantly innovating and trying to push through progressive tactics and formations for the seemingly never-ending conveyor belts superb individual talent these levels of success might have become a norm. Now that Germany has become an example to the world and how to deliver a top to bottom footballing philosophy, all that remains to be seen is whether they continue to meet their own high standards.