German Revival?

An interesting fact has caught my attention. Germany is the first nation to hold three major European titles simultaneously in youth football at Under-17, Under-19, and Under-21 levels. Most of the players may not become stars at senior level – some may disappear from the football map altogether – but nevertheless it is a very impressive distinction.

I’ve seen some pretty good West German and German teams. If you’ve never seen the 2nd Round match from the 1990 FIFA World Cup Finals between West Germany and Holland, I suggest you find it and put aside a few hours of your life to watch it. Thrilling is the first word that comes to mind.

German dominance of football was once a very common thing. Before the East and West became one nation, West Germany had already played in the final of nine major international tournaments, winning five. German presence continued with a runner-up place in the European Championship in 1992 and then victory at Wembley in the same tournament four years later. The pedigree is unquestioned.

Although they managed to reach the final of both the 2002 FIFA World Cup Final and 2008 European Championship, recent German teams have not been nearly as impressive as their predecessors – some of those sides were scary. Three-time winners of both World Cup and European Championship as West Germany and/or Germany, sides from the 1970’s through the last truly impressive side of 1996 featured some pretty good players.

While I’ve never liked them, I have always enjoyed watching those teams. They were typically powerful and efficient. To ever again field teams of similar ability to those great sides is a seriously tall order.

The foundation for future success seems to have been laid with dominance at youth levels. For me the question is if there will ever be another German player as versatile as Lothar Mathaus? Will there ever be a German striker as efficient and as powerful as Gerd Muller or Karl-Heinz Rummenigge? Will there ever be a more tactically sound, more two-footed fullback than Andreas Brehme? I won’t even mention Der Kaiser, as coach or player.

It’s clear that German football has invested in its future but I am not nearly as frightened as I was by the wave of exceptional if not highly specialized players who once typified Die Nationalmannschaft.

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