Germany’s 7-1 FIFA World Cup mauling of Brazil should come to be recognised as the ultimate realisation of Joachim Low’s coaching vision.
Initial reaction understandably focused on the host nation licking its wounds and venting its anger on the back of a staggering and unprecedented semi-final capitulation.
Similarly, Low, who boasts a team of players with bulging club medal collections but lacking a major prize on the international stage, knows the Estadio Mineirao masterclass will count for nothing if Germany fail to lift the World Cup for a fourth time at Rio de Janeiro’s fabled Maracana on Sunday.
But Tuesday’s peerless performance that was both ruthless and inventive, brutal and beautiful, felt like the distillation of everything Low has demanded of Germany’s international set-up since being brought in as a largely unheralded assistant to Jurgen Klinsmann a decade ago.
Germany’s departure at the group stage of UEFA Euro 2004, after they suffered a similar fate in 2000, brought the end of Rudi Voller’s reign as national team coach.
Despite a surprise run to the 2002 World Cup final, Germany had lost the aura they carried peerlessly through the previous three decades. Opponents no longer feared seemingly inevitable defeat at the hands of a nation that relentlessly got the job done, with entertainment value very much a side issue.
Voller’s former international strike partner Klinsmann set about an overhaul of the style that helped him to world and European titles in 1990 and 1996 respectively. Low was charged with drawing up the tactical masterplan ahead of a home World Cup in 2006.
A frantic end-to-end 4-2 opening win over Costa Rica set the tone for a Germany team that rode a wave of fervent national optimism on the way to a 2-0 extra-time loss to Italy at the semi-final stage.
Klinsmann stepped down after the tournament, with the reins handed to Low. Suspicions that the 2006 run was a hometown flash-in-the-pan were dismissed as the new man secured a Euro 2008 final berth.
Spain won 1-0 in Vienna, but Low’s Germany had truly arrived. And he was just getting started.
When a lavishly gifted Germany Under-21 team thrashed England 4-0 to win the European Championship in 2009, Low recognised the tools to develop and enhance Germany’s expansive approach.
Manuel Neuer, Benedikt Howedes, Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng, Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil played in that Under-21 final. All six started as Brazil were humbled on Wednesday.
The nucleus of this generation was unleashed at the 2010 World Cup, where England and Argentina were easily dispatched before Spain stood in the way once more.
Bayern Munich’s Thomas Muller took home the Golden Boot from South Africa and as Low continued to integrate an enviable production line of young talent, Euro 2012 felt like Germany’s time to claim a first major honour for 16 years.
A Mario Balotelli-inspired Italy derailed their juggernaut at the semi-final stage, amid suggestions Low had sacrificed Germany’s once granite-like substance in favour of a style that won friends but not trophies.
Nevertheless, the 54-year-old stuck to his chosen course as the mainstays of his team tasted European glory with Bayern, humiliating Barcelona on the way in 2013.
Barca’s tiki-taka pioneer Pep Guardiola bolted some of his methods onto Bayern last season as the Bavarian giants once again swept the board domestically, and Low followed suit at international level.
Following Spain’s group-stage demise in Brazil, Germany’s night of nights in Belo Horizonte displayed incisive passing and pressing on a par with anything Europe’s dominant nation produced over recent tournaments. At the same time, their coach’s dynamic vision from 2006 burned brighter than ever.
It took Low 10 years to build his masterpiece. If all goes to plan against Argentina, it will be a deserved reward.
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