On the 17th of November 2010 in the Swedish city of Gothenburg with just over 20,000 in attendance Germany and Sweden played out a drab goalless draw. It was a match never likely to live long in the German memory. However, the day held a much wider significance. After 78 minutes of an otherwise unremarkable game, substitutes Mario Götze, then 18, and André Schürrle, then 20, simultaneously became the first German players born after reunification in 1990 to represent the senior national team.
Less than four years later in Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium Germany won its fourth World Cup, its first as a unified nation. How fitting it should be then, that Mario Götze scored the winning goal from a cross provided by André Schürrle. The symbolism of that moment, a unified German team once again asserting its nation’s place at the top of world football after a 24-year wait, was something all of Germany could finally revel in.
The World Cup winning goal, expertly taken by Götze, summed up everything that German football currently represents. The technique in the finish, the cool head at the crucial moment, the victory on the biggest stage. Götze himself, largely under the radar for the majority of the tournament, finally announced himself as the world star many in Germany have believed he is for years. Having been marked out as the future of the national team, described as the ‘German Messi’ by two-time German World Cup winner Franz Beckenbauer in 2011, he is now undoubtedly the present as well.
This is only the beginning of German domination of international football. This is a young team with great ambition that will be kept on its toes by the even younger generation who were not involved in the victory in Brazil. The likes of young Schalke 04 trio Julian Draxler, 20, Maximilian Meyer, 18, and Leon Goretzka, 19, will be inspired to stake their own claims to bring glory to Die Nationalmannschaft. More young stars will come through and more medals will surely be won.
This was the vindication that German football had envisioned, even planned, when they decided their national footballing system needed a thorough reconfiguration. Poor performances and no victories in the 2000 and 2004 editions of the European Championships caused the concern and revealed the need for serious change at all levels of German football. And all this despite a second placed finish in the 2002 World Cup demonstrates that for this nation of perennial winners nothing but first place will suffice as success.
From 2004 new manager Jürgen Klinsmann installed a clear footballing philosophy; replacing traditional German discipline and defensive style with youth and offensive football that would permeate every aspect of national football. German football benefitted hugely. By selecting younger players based on performance not reputation, a third place finish at the 2006 World Cup restored Germany’s reputation as a premium footballing nation, and these principles are the basis of the current side’s success.
This was an ideal that the DFB (German Football Association) bought into, through all youth teams to the senior team. There was a desired outcome, a progression that continued with the appointment of Klinsmann’s assistant, current manager, Joachim Löw in 2006. More near misses were to follow, losing the Euro 2008 final 1-0 to Spain and the 2010 World Cup semi-final by the same score line, again to eventual winners Spain. There was no snap decision following the 2-1 defeat to Italy in the Euro 2012 semi final. Coming up against an inspired Mario Balotelli it was declared a ‘freak result’, and in all likelihood the Germans would have given Spain a tougher test in the final than Italy’s meek 4-0 surrender.
There was a feeling that Joachim Löw and his team would have one last opportunity to achieve success. There was no panic. Germany kept faith in its system, and kept faith in Löw. It was understood, to an extent calculated, that this was their best chance to reclaim the World Cup. In a journey lasting longer than a decade, perhaps even dating back to unification and the subsequent births of Mario Götze and André Schürrle, there was a planned conclusion: it was Germany’s destiny to win this World Cup.