By Panos Bletsos
They are the most successful nation in European football history, but they have been left empty handed since their Euro ‘96 triumph. They are the kings of qualifying, brushing aside anyone who stands in their way, but usually fall at the last hurdle before the final. However, Friday’s 6-1 mauling of the Republic of Ireland in Dublin shows that perhaps it’s now Germany’s turn to go all the way.
The ingredients are all there. Currently second in the FIFA rankings, Germany (or at least the former west part of the now re-unified country) has won the World Cup three times, as many as it has claimed the European Championship. And with the exception of the Erich Ribbeck transitional period ‘Die Mannschaft’ is always there or there about. Rudi Völler took them to the 2002 World Cup final and Jürgen Klinsmann led them to a respected third place in both the 2005 Confederations Cup and the 2006 World Cup, which was held in the country. When the reigning Team USA boss decided not to renew, the DFB handed over the national side to his former assistant, Jogi Löw. Unlike his two predecessors, Löw had a 12-year coaching experience, but was still young enough to follow and adopt the progress of the game, at the same time being all too familiar with ‘Die Nationalelf’ mentality.
The Right Man For The Job
In spite of some early-days media scepticism, it proved to be a wise choice. Germany made the Euro 2008 final and then nicked third place in the 2010 World Cup after some impressive performances against England, Argentina and Uruguay, again losing by a single goal to the best Spanish side of all-time. Euro 2012 and their 2-1 semifinal defeat to Italy was indeed a setback, but Löw knew that his side was on its way up, as its earlier performances against the likes of Portugal, the Netherlands, Denmark and Greece suggested.
That’s why Germany picked up where they left off before that June 28 evening in Warsaw. Besides, not many national sides can boast the wealth of talent Löw has in his hands. At 26, relatively young for his position, Manuel Neuer is already among the best goalkeepers in the world. Benni Höwedes, Heiko Westermann, Holger Badstuber, Per Mertesacker and Mats Hummels are all top-class central defenders for the boss to only pick two, while Marcel Schmelzer, Jérôme Boateng and of course flexible captain Philipp Lahm are all equally impressive down the flanks. And none of them will be older than 31 come 2014!
The same goes for each and every midfielder Löw has been counting on so far, with some impressive names on the list: Sami Khedira, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mesut Özil, Thomas Müller, Toni Kroos, Mario Götze, Marco Reus and teenage sensation Julian Draxler. The Germany coach can easily deploy as many as five of them at the same time, with that formation becoming more attack-minded should André Schürrle and / or Lukas Podolski be included.
The only downside for Germany is its lack of attacking options. With Bundesliga sides relying heavily on foreign strikers, Löw depends mostly on the form of Mario Gómez, as Miro Klose will celebrate his 36th birthday a few days before the 2014 World Cup kicks off – if he’s still active by then. However, this hasn’t prevented them from scoring 58 times in their last 19 competitive matches following that semifinal loss to Spain in Durban, 27 months ago. The Germans are out for revenge. Ignore them at your peril.
Panos Bletsos has been a contributing writer to Soccer 365 for the past year or so, but has spent nearly two decades covering the Beautiful Game for a number of media, including Goal.com. Based in Greece, he also served as a Euro 2012 TV commentator for the public broadcast corporation ERT. You can follow him on Twitter @PanosBletsos.
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