On Monday, I previewed the Germany-Spain semi-final and I’ve been asked to talk a little more about how this German team has emerged, and about how they compare to Spain.
Let me say that six years ago, German football was in crisis, so far as the national team was concerned. We had just returned home early from the European Championships where, much as England, France and Italy this time, we had disappointed. At that time, the foundation for the future was put in place, and now, we are seeing the fruits from the seeds planted then.
German football had been built upon discipline, organisation and efficiency. The team, initially under Juergen Klinsmann and assisted by current coach Joachim Loew, set about creating a unit that retained the efficiency of Germany, the pace of the English and the flair of the Spaniards.
In short, we built a team that plays dynamic football, that can combine pace and precision, that is attack-minded and clinical, but which retains its defensive strength.
This is the team that is emerging now. Like England, Germany move the ball from defence
to attack very quickly, but along the floor, and, like the Spanish, the passing and movement is exceptional. Also this team tries to set the agenda on the field, rather than responding to what the opponent does. England and Argentina posed different problems but our response was always the same.
This Spanish team is what the English might call their ‘golden generation’. It is unusual for so many gifted players to arrive at one time. In Iniesta, Xavi, Xabi Alonso, Busquets, Fabregas and Silva, Spain have so much talent in the midfield.
In Torres and Villa, they have two world-class strikers. Their defence is strong, and in Casillas they have one of the best goalkeepers in the world. It is not so much that Spain have changed their style of play, as Germany have done, but more than that, they have been blessed with an exceptional group of players.
While the Spanish team has great players whose ability dictates that they should be selected, for Germany, we have picked players who can perform in the new system. The U-21 team began the change, the clubs and federation were engaged, and so we see the emergence of players like Ozil, Boateng, Badstuber, Mueller and Khedira, who captained the U-21 team to the European title last year. These players have been schooled in a special system of play and have the ideal skills and techniques to make it work.
It has been a long process, and there were bad results along the way. However, we are seeing now that this new style of play works well for us. Against the golden generation of Spain, there will be another test, for sure, but Germany now is a team.