They waltzed to qualification, play inventive, exciting football and their squad seems tougher and more resolute than ever, watch out Spain, Germany are our favourites for Euro 2012. And at 5-1, that's not a bad gamble
Apart from co-hosts Poland and Ukraine, they were the first side to book their place at EURO 2012 next summer. They cruised through a group which included Turkey and Austria to qualify in style with a 100% record. And they haven’t lost a match, competitive or otherwise, since the defeat to Spain in the semi-final of last year’s World Cup. Joachim Löw has been building a solid team, playing attractive football in his five or so years in the manager’s job.
2. They’re even better than last year
Let’s begin with some statistics: Germany qualified for the tournament with two games to spare; they also finished with ten wins from ten, 13 points ahead of second-placed Turkey and with a goal difference of +27, by far and away the best record of any of the top European sides. There was a trend which really came to public light in South Africa last year: it was that Germany would play teams and hammer them. Australia, Argentina and especially England were blown away, not by their efficiency, but by their speed and invention, and that trend has continued since. German fans have now come to the point, and well they should, where they expect their team to beat everyone. I imagine it’s a view the players themselves share, which should in itself stand them in good stead for next summer’s big event.
3. Their squad is one big, happy family
There is a real harmony to the squads which Joachim Löw assembles. Philipp Lahm, recently chastised in the press for his scathing comments about ex- Germany managers Jürgen Klinsmann and Rudi Völler, retained the captaincy, and the respect of players and fans, by captaining his country to qualification, with the aid of verbal support from Löw himself. He’s also been in fantastic form for his club Bayern München, helping to make Manchester City – and Gareth Barry – look so ordinary in the Champions league last month.
4. They’ve got the experience
Then there’s Bastian Schweinsteiger to consider. The heartbeat of Bayern and Germany’s midfield, he’s been as consistent as ever this season. Since being converted to a central midfielder from a right-winger, he’s excelled in all forms of the game, and has become the complete midfielder, with penalty taking skills to boot. There’s also Lukas Podolski and Per Mertesacker, still in their mid-twenties, but both having over 80 international caps behind them. Both have endured tough starts to this season with their clubs – Mertesacker has had a taxing beginning to his premier League career, while Podolski’s Köln are near the bottom of the league, with him being criticised as someone who doesn’t play for his team. Both were, significantly enough, defended by Löw, however, and started last Friday’s game against Turkey. And why wouldn’t they: Podolski has a record of 43 goals in 93 appearances for Germany, while Mertesacker has been a regular since 2006.
German fans have now come to the point, and well they should, where they expect their team to beat everyone. I imagine it’s a view the players themselves share…
5. They’ve got oodles of young talent
As for the squad itself as a whole, Joachim Löw seems to have the biggest of all managerial selection headaches – perhaps that’s why he doesn’t tend to rotate his squad too much. But when he does call new and young players up, they seem to slot effortlessly into the team. Thomas Müller is a good example. He had only played two games for Germany before last year’s World Cup, yet ended up at the Golden Boot winner with five goals and three assists. More recently call-ups have included Mario Götze and André Schürrle, and it’s been the same story with them. Götze, rumoured to have been lined up by Arsene Wenger for a move to England, scored his first goal for his country in the impressive defeat of Brazil in August and has gone on to add another four caps, as well as a goal in September’s demolition of Austria.
Schürrle’s ascent to the top has been just as rapid: he is a winger who has scored five goals in just ten games for Germany, a stat which typifies the free-flowing and fluid style which Germany play – any number of players could have got on the scoresheet against Belgium last night. The experienced regulars like Schweinsteiger, Lahm Mertesacker and Podolski provide a superb compliment to the youthful energies of Götze and Schürrle. Coupled with the rest of the talent in the squad – Toni Kroos, Sami Khedira, Mesut Özil and even rookies such ass Marco Reus of Boorussia Mönchengladbach – it’s little wonder that Germany score so many goals. The rest of their squad is also looking strong. Manuel Neuer is currently many people’s candidate for the world’s best goalkeeper, while in defence, young players like Holger Badstuber (FC Bayern), Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund) and Benedikt Höwedes (Schalke 04) are pushing for the chance to partner Mertesacker or Jerome Boateng next summer. Barrring Spain and possibly Holland, the German squad looks streets ahead of every other county.
6. They’re younger and quicker than Spain
For most of 2011, Germans have been declaring that Germany will be the nation to unseat Spain next summer. According to Löw, Franz Beckenbauer and most other German footballing figures, the team have learned their lessons from last year’s defeat. They are now younger and quicker than the Spanish team, which has been using the same blood for a number of years now. And Germany’s players aren’t caught up in club rivalries or at each others’ throats the next time a derby game comes round in the Bundesliga, unlike most of a Spain team comprised of players from Real Madrid or Barcelona.
In the long-term, systems are in placed to afford Germany the opportunity of dominating world football for years to come. In the short-term, the feeling here is one of optimism ahead of next year’s tournament. It’s a feeling that Germany fans can have very good reason for.