It may have taken 112 minutes to come but Germany’s World Cup winning goal was 24 years in the making. For a country known for producing quality automobiles refined over generations it should be no surprise that they applied the same logic to its national football team. For the key engineer behind the project Joachim Low, it is vindication for all those nearly runs whilst he was tweaking and adjusting the balance of his machine. Nine years ago he started, picking up from Jurgen Klinsmann who had managed Germany for only two years prior with Low at his side as assistant manager. Klinsmann had started the overhaul, stripping the aging team down to its bare components and starting again after a disappointing Euro 2004. He managed a semi final berth at the 2006 World Cup on home soil in Germany but decided to step down after the tournament and let Low take on the challenge. It would be a masterful decision as Low would take Germany that one stage further eight yesrs later in Brazil. On the way they would reach the semi finals of the 2010 World Cup and earn a semi final spot at Euro 2012 but it was all in preparation for the ultimate goal, World Cup final success.
Mario Gotze 112th minute strike will go down in the record books as the one that helped lift the World Cup for Germany but this truly was a team effort. In goal, Manuel Neuer looked calm and relaxed throughout the tournament, quietly confident that they would win in the end. Neuer had more touches outside of his box in the tournament than inside of it, as he played the role of sweeper keeper to perfection. His assured performances shone brightly, helping him to the Golden Glove award and to World Cup glory. Captain Phillipp Lahm proved irreplaceable in the team, operating either as a defensive midfielder or in his natural right back berth. The Bayern Munich star inspired his team to victory through his tenacity and self drive that has made him a winner in almost every competition he has entered. His defensive partners – Benedikt Höwedes, Mats Hummels, Jérôme Boatengand Per Mertesacker ensure that Neuer was rarely tested and redefined German defending for years to come. Hummels in particular stood out, showing why Manchester United are so keen to sign him and why Borussia Dortmund are trying desperately to hold on to him.
Bastian Schweinsteiger proved once again that he is one of the world’s best midfielders, battling from the start in a style not seen since Michael Ballack departed for retirement. Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil shone bright whilst Chelsea’s Andre Schurrle proved invaluable from the bench. Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira anchored the side in midfield providing the inspiration when needed to get them through some difficult matches. Up front Thomas Muller continued his Wolrd Cup tradition with yet another 5 goals including a stunning hat trick, the first international one of his career, against Portugal whilst the never aging Miroslav Klose ensured that history would not forget him as he became the all time leading goalscorer in a World Cup with the two strikes needed to take him to 16. Each to a man, Germany excelled, their passing game a joy to behold. As the game ticked into its 60th minute, Germany had already racked up 400+ passes to Argentina’s 176. Possession of the ball stood at 60/40 in Germany’s favour and they had already struck the post once. Whilst Higuian had the ball in the back of the net from a offside position once, Argentina had rarely troubled Germany in the first hour of the match. The second hour, which included the 30 minutes of extra time saw the same story with Germany only giving up on its total possession by 7% mostly due to growing fatigue. Argentina simply didn’t have the spark that many thought they would have going into the match.
Much will be talked about the ineffectiveness of Lionel Messi on this the grandest stage of all but to be fair the odds were always against him. Comparisons to Maradona and his achievements in 1986 were predictable but without a support team of genuine world-class players, it was never going to be Messi’s night. They will refer to how Maradona single handily dragged Argentina over the finish line in the final to win the World Cup and how Messi, arguably one of the games greatest ever players should have done the same. But the bitter truth is that the Argentina squad of 1986 was collectively a far stronger and star-studded team than that which took to the field yesterday. Jorge Valdano, Daniel Passarella, Jorge Burruchaga and Oscar Ruggeri all played vital roles in Argentina’s success alongside Maradona in Mexico 1986 as they beat West Germany in the final 3-2. Maradona was a genius whose creativity, vision and determination had got them there but he never scored in the final. The winning goal would come from Burruchaga after West Germany fought back from 2-0 down to tie the match with ten minutes to go. Messi had played a similar role in getting his team to this years final, scoring four goals along the way and earning four consecutive man of the match awards. But without a fully fit Angel Di Maria and Sergio Aguero plus the stuttering form of Gonzalo Higuian, it was always going to be a step too far for the Barcelona striker.
For Germany, the Low built machine rolls on to qualification for Euro 2016 in France. Like Spain who dominated for six years during 2008 and 2014, Germany will be considered favourites to win before even one ball has been kicked and rightly so. The current crop still has plenty left in the tank and Low will be keen to build on his legacy. He will refine and tweak his team adding newer parts like Julian Draxler, Matthias Ginter and Marco Reus into the fold, rebuilding the machine that he has put together. Germany were deserved winners of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and will use that as a springboard for future success. The scariest thing for other nations to observe is Germany can get better and with Low behind the driver’s seat, this well oiled machine could dominate world football for the foreseeable future.