Germany’s eight-year plan comes together as the World Cup closes

2014-07-12 00:00

THERE are many who are quite literally exhausted after what has been a month of non-stop football.

The 2014 Fifa World Cup draws to a close tomorrow with a Germany-Argentina final and the curtain will come down on what has been a tournament of the highest quality. The late kick-offs have no doubt resulted in grumpy mornings aplenty, but the finish line is in sight and when the realisation sets in that we have another four years to wait before the next World Cup, we will look back on this time nostalgically.

It has been a strange competition. Prematurely labelled the “tournament of upsets”, sanity prevailed when the knockouts began as the big teams out-muscled their less fancied opponents and only the eight group winners remained at the quarter-final stage.

There were some moments that will be etched in World Cup history forever — none more so than Tuesday night’s semi-final. Seeing tears in the eyes of the Brazilian players less than half an hour into the match told the whole story. As entertaining as the football was, it became difficult to watch as half-time drew near and Germany never looked like slowing down. Nobody who watched that match will ever forget it.

It would take a brave man to bet against the Germans tomorrow following that performance, but the Lionel Messi factor makes Argentina attractive. If he wins this World Cup, he will surely go down as the greatest footballer of all time and nobody could argue that he doesn’t deserve it.

Speaking to current Bloemfontein Celtic and former Maritzburg United coach Ernst Middendorp this week was interesting. Over a cup of coffee — double espresso in Ernst’s case — nearly two years ago, he pretty much predicted the future.

He explained quite passionately that after the 2006 World Cup in Germany, where the hosts finished third, a period of rebuilding had begun in German football. Everything had led up to that point, to win the World Cup on home soil, and after that dream ended, it was time to start over.

An eight-year plan was born where a philosophy that encouraged direct passing, rigid structure and quick transition was implemented. It would be the template for the next two World Cups, with 2014 identified as the year it would bear fruit. He said that work is done whenever the national team get together on ensuring that all players adopt the same philosophy — an unwavering philosophy.

Furthermore, German club coaches were included in the creation of the structures, concepts and tactics that Joachim Loew and his technical team had identified, and all agreed to do their bit to cultivate their players in line with that philosophy.

It was Middendorp’s prediction that Germany would be a serious force in 2014 and that they would be so well oiled by this time that they would be ready for anybody. He suggested that they would go the distance and they have.

It is not the first time that such in-depth planning has brought about success. The Spanish golden era, which ended in Brazil, is another example of how a meticulous and consistent approach can be implemented to bring about victory on the world’s biggest stage.

Maybe someday South Africa will be able to do something similar, but there is so much that needs to be resolved administratively before we can even think about replicating the Spaniards or the Germans. That is a story for another day.

On this day, we look back on the last month and remember all of the celebration and heartache. The insanity of Suarez, the injustice towards the Ivory Coast, the heroics of Krul, the brilliance of Messi, the high-flying goalkeepers, the tragic misfortune of Neymar and the crushed Brazilian dream have all, among countless other moments, contributed to what has been an outstanding spectacle.

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