x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

World Cup 2014 win proves Germany are a team for all continents

This team have been finalists in North America and Asia, semi-finalists in Africa and, on three previous occasions, winners in Europe. They travel and triumph, writes Richard Jolly.

Philipp Lahm of Germany lifts the World Cup trophy after defeating Argentina 1-0 in extra time at The Maracana. Matthias Hangst / Getty Images
Philipp Lahm of Germany lifts the World Cup trophy after defeating Argentina 1-0 in extra time at The Maracana. Matthias Hangst / Getty Images

As the game headed to extra time, the cameras picked out Germany’s last World Cup-winning captain. Lothar Matthaus was videoing himself on a phone, a reminder of how much times have changed since he lifted the most desirable trophy of all in Rome’s Olympic Stadium.

The mobile phone was a recent invention then, the Berlin Wall a recent memory. Technically, Matthaus retains a distinction: he captained West Germany. Half an hour or so after he preserved for posterity the view of himself at the Maracana, Philipp Lahm had led the reunified, reinvigorated Germany to glory. Twenty-four years without a World Cup, 18 without any major trophy, the wait was ended.

In style, too. It had been an attritional final, but it was settled with ambition and panache. Truth be told, Germany’s marquee performance came a game too early. There was never going to be a repeat of the 7-1 demolition of Brazil. Argentina were too organised, too competent, too defiant. There were thudding collisions, between Manuel Neuer and Gonzalo Higuain, Christoph Kramer and Ezequiel Garay.

The unfortunate, outstanding Bastian Schweinsteiger was bloodied and battered by a series of assaults from the Argentines. But Germany had reserves of energy and reserves with quality. They struck in beautiful fashion. One replacement, Andre Schurrle, crossed and another, Mario Gotze, cushioned it and volleyed it in. It is a cliche to say it was a goal worthy of winning the World Cup. It is true nonetheless.

It was one way of illustrating just why Germany have become world football’s dominant power. These are the men they bring off the bench, when the injured Marco Reus, Ilkay Gundogan and Lars Bender did not travel to Brazil, when Sami Khedira withdrew in the warm-up and his replacement, Kramer, lasted barely half an hour.

But it is not the German way to moan about absentees. They simply make the most of what they have. Theirs is an uncomplaining excellence, an ability to churn out results. They could not destroy Argentina, but they could deny them.

Jerome Boateng, this side’s unsung hero, was outstanding in defence. In front of him, Schweinsteiger was magnificent. It is worth remembering that he began the World Cup on the bench. There was a debate if the Bayern Munich man deserved his place. Now he belongs in the team of the tournament. So, too, do Lahm, Mats Hummels, Toni Kroos and Thomas Muller. Some would add Manuel Neuer to that list but, although Argentina had several chances, it is worth remembering that the German goalkeeper did not have a save to make.

This is not a perfect German team; their high defensive line again threatened to be their undoing. But there is no doubt they were the most accomplished in Brazil. And they have been a team, too: whereas many of their rivals were too dependent on one player, Germany had substitutes who could decide the game.

They continued a trend. There was something fitting that Germany became the first European nation to win a World Cup in the Americas. They are the team for all continents, winners in South American, finalists in North America and Asia, semi-finalists in Africa and, on three previous occasions, winners in Europe. They travel and triumph.

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