There is no doubt that Germany simply dominates world football in recent times when it comes to their national team competing in major tournaments. And when I am referring the term of “recent times”, I am referring to a period of around 10-12 years. The records speak of themselves when it comes to German national team performance from say 2000 onwards:
- FIFA world cup: Runners up in 2002, Third place in 2006 and 2010, Champions in 2014
- European Championship: Group stage in 2000 and 2004, Runners up in 2008, Third in 2012 and 2016
- FIFA Confederations cup: Did not qualify in 2001, did not play in 2003, Third in 2005, did not qualify in 2009 and 2013, Champions in 2017
That made me think on the main reasons behind the phenomenal success of the German national team, when comparing with the other great footballing nations of Italy, France, Spain, England, etc in Europe. I have deliberately kept the Latin American countries out here, because I believe there the supremacy is kind of polarised with Brazil, Argentina when it comes in national team level competitions.
- If we look at the club level team compositions across the big leagues in Europe, German leagues take the least number of foreign players. Going by 2017 UEFA report, foreign players in Bundesliga accounts for 49.2%, whereas the number is 55.5% in Serie A in Italy and a staggering 69.2% in English Premier League. So, chances of junior players coming up and playing a top league is much high in Germany than say in England or Italy
Now, let’s look at two foundation level parameters specially for junior football – youth football focus and competent coaching staff availability:
- The focus of German football has been their youth and development at the youth level. Only in that way, you will have a steady supply of quality players who can dominate football at an young age. The Bundesliga clubs spend around £85m (2014 data) annually on their youth academies, which is one of the highest in the world. This focus started sometime in 2000, when they felt that the German team in Euro 2000 was too “old” and hence could not compete
And the results of the investment was evident before the last world cup of 2014, when they became champions. At that point of time, gifted young players coming out of this system was too plenty. All the now famous players are a result of that focus – just look at the names and their age (as on 2013) – Julian Draxler (19), Andre Schürrle (22), Thomas Müller (23), Holger Badstuber (24), Mats Hummels (24), Mesut Ozil (24), Mario Götze (20), Toni Kroos (23) and the list goes on. No wonder, these players played such a vital role in their 2014 world cup win
- Coming to qualified and competent coaching staff in Germany. There are 34,000+ qualified coaches in Germany now as compared to around 3,000 in England. Hence, the ability to groom, develop and produce quality youth footballers is much high in Germany
Finally comes German precision, logical thinking and having the nationalism feeling rather than individualism traits that are seen in other leagues.
- During 2010 world cup, the Germans had an average ball possession time of 3.4 seconds. The leadership believed that if they can cut down on this parameter drastically, not only they can put the opposition totally off-guard but will enable a fluent, fast paced football which can prove to be the big differentiation factor. They teamed up with SAP and aided by a product made by SAP for German football, they cut down the possession time from 3.4 seconds to 1.1 seconds. The precision thinking along with technology makes Germans a leader by a big margin when compared to any other team in the world. If you want to read more details on this unique thing they did in 2014 world cup, click on the below link:
- The other focus has been on their techniques and no longer great physiques. If you see German team of 2014 world cup, just look at their matches and find out how many times the ball is lost due to a first poor touch or how many unforced errors comes up during passing or how possession is given away cheaply. The numbers will be much lower than what you will see in other big teams in that world cup including Argentina, Brazil, Holland, etc
- Finally it comes to developing an inclusive culture based on open communications and individual responsibilities. This is possible because German’s do not have big “stars” in their teams like Messi, Neymar, Ronaldo, etc. I think even the biggest of the stars of German soccer today like Tony Kroos or Ozil do not claim individual showmanship on or off the field. They would rather play as a team and not have big ego’s on individual supremacy within their own teams. In recent times, the German teams have players coming from different origins – Polish, Turkish, Moroccan, etc. However, the emphasis on inclusion within the team and emphasis on community never replaced individual accountability.
This was best seen in Neuer’s interview after the quarterfinal win against France in 2014 world cup. When he was congratulated by a reporter on an excellent save in stoppage time against a Benzema shot, Neuer first credited his defense mentioning that they narrowed him to the extent that Benzema had no other option but to take a shot on the near post and then he mentioned “and if it goes in there it’s a goalkeeper error”.
No wonder the success stories of Germany is huge in recent years. I would say if growing footballing nations like India would like to work out an overall success model in football that will allow them to taste success in world football in next 10-15 years, they should emulate the German model.
Now we wait to see whether the same Germans can win the 2018 world cup again or at least reach the finals. Well, time will tell ….