How German football restored its global stature

The exit at Euro 2000 was meant to be the catalyst for a football revolution in Germany

Published: Updated:

The exit at Euro 2000 was meant to be the catalyst for a football revolution in Germany. The German FA (DFB) and German football league (DFL) put inter-politics aside and developed a new, ambitious strategy for improving the standards in the country.

The DFB has since managed a programme to build 46 new youth academies – figure gradually increasing with new HQs planned for lower league clubs – with the sum of around €20 million ploughed into youth football, according to the Guardian newspaper in 2010. But most clubs take control of their own academy systems, while only following the guidelines set by the football authorities.

For decades, Germany had garnered the reputation of being a tournament team, with a focus on counter-attacking and efficiency in-front of goal. Think of the clichés: ‘well-oiled’, ‘disciplined’, ‘resolute’ and so-on so forth.

The 2010 World Cup in South Africa was one of the first glimpses of this new German identity on the international stage. In the eyes of many it represented a modern Germany, free from the shackles of its history, as the center of European affairs and subsequently, highlighting the changing face of race and ethnicity on the continent.

Mesut Ozil

Midfielders like Mesut Ozil had progressed through the ranks as young Turkish-German teenagers, as football became a vital source for community integration. Ozil’s rise is meteoric – he went from Schalke to Werder Bremen, before moving on to Real Madrid after the performances at the 2010 finals in South Africa. The Turkish-German community has in recent years had more role models to name in Borussia Dortmund pair Ilkay Gundogan and Nuri Sahin, among others.

On the pitch, Germany’s attacking style was fast, fluid and bright; the team had a sense of home with so many young talents who had been given opportunities in the Bundesliga. Bayern Munich’s Thomas Muller, for instance, was in his breakthrough season when the call from the national team came ahead of the World Cup. He had done enough: scoring 13 league goals and making over 50 appearances under Louis van Gaal, in all competitions.

Germany reached the semi-finals in South Africa and lost 1-0 to Spain. They had some so near – the start of a new reputation of being supposed ‘nearly men’ on the international stage. Of course, this is vague and reactionary considering the basis of this is on 2010 and Euro 2012.

Pragmatic and efficient

Paradoxically, at the 2014 World Cup, Germany’s reputation as being pragmatic and efficient has been restored. Low’s side came through early tests against Portugal (4:0), Ghana (2:2) and the United States of America (1:0), before coming unstuck to the Algerians who forced extra-time.

France was the first test against proven high-quality opponents. The Germans prevailed by a single goal through Mats Hummels, as Low’s tactical changes towards a more conservative 4-3-3 formation paid dividends. Germany’s national team has gone full circle – efficient, to creative, then to nearly-men and stale, before returning to the starting point. Damned if they lose; damned if they win, to put it simply.

The win over France came on the same day as the most iconic achievement in German football – the Miracle of Bern in 1954. DIE ZEIT, a German-based newspaper, wrote: “In the 1-0 win over France, he had mixed the traditional elements of German football, in honour of the renowned Fritz Walter: passionate and radical result-focused football.”

The German team, however, has received various criticisms in the domestic media about its performance against Algeria in the Round of 16. Per Mertesacker, the Arsenal defender, snapped at a TV reporter post-match who had belittled Germany’s achievements of beating the Algerians, last Monday.

Also, 24-year-old striker Muller, in an interview with newspaper DIE ZEIT, rubbished criticism from the media, suggesting it was founded around the stature and reputation of the Desert Foxes and not the actual ability of the team.

Despite this uncertainty at home, Germany will still whip up another party on Tuesday evening. Fans will don the three national colours – black, red and yellow – and wear the DFB-team shirt in the hope that the German side can reach the World Cup final on July 13.

In addition to the playing style, it could be another throwback to 1974 this time, if they meet the Netherlands in the final.