Everything you need to know about the shebang in South Africa
How is it that the Germans always manage to perform on the greatest stage when it really matters, no matter how low the nation’s expectations are at the outset of a World Cup?
Who would have thought that their young team would so systematically dismantle the ambitions of Maradona’s charismatic Argentinians? Certainly not Maradona himself, who looked completely bemused that his side could have been so comprehensively taken apart.
At the press conference after the game Maradona could only attribute defeat to the fact that the Germans had scored very early on, and were able to score more goals than his side. His reasoning tells its own story and perhaps that is why he is now on an early plane home and pondering his future with the national team.
Before he left, journalists tried to push him on why stars such as Lionel Messi had failed to shine at this World Cup, but he was lost for an answer of worth. While Argentina had kicked off the competition with a squad crammed with some of the biggest names in football, the Germans had arrived shorn of their principal star, Michael Ballack, in a team peppered with talent from last summer's European Championship-winning Under-21 squad – players such as Mesut Özil, Thomas Müller, Sami Khedira, Jérôme Boateng and Manuel Neuer.
Somehow the Germans had managed to persuade world football that they had the country’s weakest team in years, yet in the manner of their quiet and efficient coach, Joachim Löw, they have methodically disassembled the majority of their opponents in this tournament, hitting four each past Australia, England and Argentina.
FEATURE, June 12: Why Germany will do well >>
“The result really didn’t correspond with what happened on the pitch,” pleaded Maradona after the defeat, but he only succeeded in making himself appear even more in denial.
While Maradona was left to come to terms with his shortcomings in his own time, German fans at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront were only just starting their night of partying. They may have been happy in their celebrations but they were just as confused as the Argentine coach, for this was a result that few had expected, leaving them to sing with broad smiles rather than the arrogant smirks of old.
“To be very honest with you, although my heart was with Germany, I actually bet my money on Argentina,” admitted 32-year-old Ben Brudler from Hamburg. “But I’m very lucky to have lost this money.”
Although this fast and attractive counter-attacking team don’t play like the pragmatic German sides of yesteryear, those efficient automatons who were always able to grind out World Cup results against the odds, Brudler still attributed the progress of the 2010 side to the traditional German team ethic. “I guess the individual players aren’t that strong but together the team is very strong,” he said. “There are no stars in this side but together they are great.
“It’s obvious that the Nationalmannschaft is just very good at tournaments,” he added. “It has always been that way and the team seems to be doing it again this time. When we start out at a World Cup we don’t expect to get too far but then somehow it always seems to happen.”
How is it when everyone in the game was led to believe that this was a weak team, the Germans have managed to fool us all again? “Isn’t it the same every time?” laughed Matthias Hunecke from Oldenburg. “It’s probably because we are all a little bit conservative and we don’t arrive at the World Cup saying, ‘we’re going to win it’. We just say, ‘hopefully we’ll get in the next round’.
"Our main strength at this competition was that everybody thought we had quite a weak team but now you see it isn’t the case. I think a couple of our opponents might have underestimated us.”
“It’s just confidence,” explained 21-year-old Roland Heidemann from Munich. “The team’s confidence has built as the competition has progressed, and the experience in the side is coming through, thanks to players like Podolski and Klose. People might say it’s a young side but our experienced players are showing them what to do.
“It’s a mindset and we’re structural,” he added. “We saw that Argentina weren’t structural and that Maradona just let his team play without really coaching anybody. We showed structure and now people are starting to believe in the team back home – and people are starting to believe here too.”
And believe they are. With just Spain standing between Germany and an eighth World Cup final, you’d be hard pushed to find anyone in South Africa to bet against them.
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I would add to that the Germans were physically superior to the Argentineans, most of them hovered around the 6 ft 2 mark, only Lahm and Podolski can be considered "short men"... Argentina put too many little men on the field (Tevez, Messi, Higuain)... and he had the players on the bench, Palermo and Milito to turn it all around. Maradona's fallacy was believing in the Messi Legend, but he failed to give Messi the adequate players to shine, Milito's size and sublime touch were ignored, it was comeuppance at it's best.
I will say Tevez gave it his all but in the end it was too much of a tall order.
The Bundesliga now has the most players left at the World Cup, with 28! That's 23 Deutsch + 5 Dutch. As for the other leagues:
Spanish La Liga 24,
Dutch Eredivisie 11,
English Premiership 8,
Italian Serie A 6,
Chilean Primera División 3,
Portuguese Liga 3,
Uruguayan Primera División 2,
plus there's 1 player playing for a club in each of France, Argentina, Brazil, Turkey, Sweden, Colombia, and Scotland.
To see these graphically:
Germany deserve all the plaudits coming their way. They've delighted us with some perfectly executed football and have shown us all what advantages there are to forward planning and investment in youth. gregtheoharis.wordpress.com/.../a-simple-plan
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