Soccerphile Editorial - July 2014

Germany's strength in unity

While it would be simplistic, not to mention a sleight on the contributions of Javier Mascherano and Sergio Romero among others during their advancement to the final, to judge Argentina as a side overwhelmingly reliant on talisman Lionel Messi, there was a sense of the individual succumbing to the team during Germany's 1-0 win on Sunday.

Messi was not truly close to his best in the final, nor was he throughout the knockout stages compared with his dazzling and determined displays to get Argentina out of the group phase in the first place.

That his award of player of the tournament in the aftermath of the final even surprised such luminaries as Fifa boss Sepp Blatter and Diego Maradona tells its own story, as does the sheepishness of Messi collecting the trophy before proclaiming that its granting meant little as he watched the Germans celebrate the ultimate glory.

Whether Messi's inclusion in the victorious Germany team would improve Joachim Loew's side is an interesting but ultimately fruitless conversation starter after the event.

As the German captain Philipp Lahm said after collecting the trophy in the Estadio Maracana, "Whether we have the best individual players or whatever does not matter: you have to have the best team."

A better point of debate might be the degree to which the abilities of some of the individuals in this mighty German machine have been overlooked because of the constant focus on the collective.

After demonstrating such an extraordinary depth of power combined with sublimity throughout the tournament in Brazil, one wonders how, for example, so few Germans were voted into Fifa's World XI for 2013.

A look back at the best eleven in the world just six months ago reveals that only Lahm and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer were included in that side.

The voters could make no space it seems for any of the German midfielders that have come to epitomise that special combination of poise and power.

No Thomas Muller?

No Toni Kroos?

No Sami Khedira?

No Bastian Schweinsteiger?

No Mesut Ozil?

Bastian Schweinsteiger, Bayern Munich.
Bastian Schweinsteiger

While it's true that the likes of Muller, Ozil and Schweinsteiger were among the Germany players that received votes in last year's Ballon D'or, their garnering of praise was somewhat eclipsed by Spain's Andres Iniesta and Xavi.

That won't be the case in this year's voting one would think.

Like Spain before them, Germany have been tipped by many to dominate international football for the next decade, and when you consider the players that didn't make it to the finals through injury (Ilkay Gundogan, Marco Reus) the strength in depth is frightening.

And then there's Mario Gotze, schooled from the age of eight in Borussia Dortmund's academy under the tutelage of Lars Ricken.

Gotze's volley deep into extra time was the most fitting way in which to win a World Cup and a World Cup final characterised by fairness in tandem with competitiveness, in marked contrast to the deciding matches in 1990, 2006 and 2010.

Its beauty led Loew to acclaim Gotze the "boy wonder", with the German manager also revealing that he sent on the second-half substitute with the message for him to show the audience that he was every bit as good as Messi.

And while he might not be quite there yet, the inevitable passing of the baton might just have been triggered when Gotze's exquisite volley found its target.

After this World Cup finals, the 2014 Ballon D'or should not be the two-horse race of recent times.

Football Travel Bookshop