More to come from world champions, with Strachan’s men first up in Euro qualfiers
So, a expected from perhaps as long ago as 16 June, when Germany signalled their intentions by defeating Portugal 4-0, Scotland will face the familiar challenge of tackling world champions in their next match in September.
Gordon Strachan’s trip to Rio de Janeiro may have told him little he did not already know about Joachim Löw’s impressive team. However, there was a slightly chilling message emerging from the depths of the Maracana stadium on Sunday night, following the drama of Germany’s late winning goal against Argentina as the thousands of German supporters continued to celebrate in the spiritual home of Brazilian football.
Why would you leave? They were drinking in the moment with the expectation that there will be more days in the sun to come. Perhaps there will never be a high to beat the thrill of winning the World Cup in Brazil. It possibly outstrips how it might have felt to win the trophy in their own country in 2006 since, on this occasion, there is a greater heft to the historic achievement: no European country had ever won a World Cup here in South America.
In addition, for the first time, the World Cup has been passed between three European countries in a row: Italy, Spain and Germany. Making life more difficult for Scotland, on each of these occasions they had already been drawn in the same group as the soon-to-become world champions in impending European Championship-qualifying campaigns.
Good news for the money-making arm of the Scottish Football Association but not such glad tidings for the managers in place at the time. Scotland have beaten reigning world champions before of course, but not recently. The four games against Italy and Spain ended in four defeats, although two of them were only by the margin of a single goal. Scotland now have two further attempts to re-claim their status as unofficial world champions, with the first arriving as soon as 7 September in Dortmund.
The box office appeal of the Germans has long-been established due to the likes of the now nearly veteran Bastian Schweinsteiger, who was such a towering influence in Brazil. They have now garnered added appeal given the manner of their World Cup victory. German shirts are already popular around the world and could now become the No 1 choice. Even here in Brazil, where it was possible to wonder whether Germany risked angering the locals by thrashing the Selecao so comprehensively, the victory has been greeted enthusiastically.
There was a mural depicting Germany’s victory on one wall in Rio by early yesterday. Theirs is a popular victory not simply since it involved the defeat of Brazil’s main rivals, but also be because Germany’s conduct has been impeccable as far as the locals are concerned. Their team base in Bahia was purpose-built using only local workers and some parts of it will be gifted for local community use.
“I said to other people after the game that for me it has been special, the experience we have had here,” said Schweinsteiger. “The guys were so happy to see us, to host us here and they are so respectful to us. We played the final for the Brazilians as well because we want to say thank you. We did it. I like the culture of the people. They are happy – not like the Germans sometimes!
“Now we will go to France and try and do it again for sure,” he added, ominously. “We have the experience now from what we have done here and that will help us.”
Worryingly for those countries looking to compete with the Germans, there is, they promise, still more to come. Can Germany follow in Spain’s path and dominate international football for a period of years? It is tempting to think they can. Spain fell short in their own quest to create history here in Brazil to become the first nation to win four successive major international tournaments.
So far short did they fall when failing to qualify from the group stage that you wonder whether it can be done. Is three tournaments in-a-row as good as it gets in the high-stakes environment of international football? With the next two major finals due to be hosted in France and Russia, hardly inhospitable settings, Germany will feel they can at least emulate Spain’s achievement over the course of the next four years.
The hardest part of this potential hat-trick of crowns might already have been completed here in Brazil, where Germany defeated not only Portugal, but also the United States, France Brazil and Argentina in a deeply impressive campaign. And of course, they were not just any old victories. The one over Portugal was a stunning announcement of their presence here, while the victory over Brazil now stands as an ever-present reminder of the host nation’s fallibility.
You now wonder if anything can ever be the same again in Brazilian football, even if Sunday night’s result provided some temporary relief from the gloomy introspection prompted by a campaign that was already viewed as stuttering before the calamity in Belo Horizonte.
In Germany, too, this tournament stands as a watershed moment, though for a more positive reason. It proves that those youth development projects set in place following failures at Euro 2000 and Euro 2004 have been worth the admittedly vast investment.
Not many countries are able to afford the annual investment of nearly £50 million. The German national side are reaping the benefit. Although included among the names was the 36 year-old Miroslav Klose, their squad was one of the youngest of the 32 competing nations in Brazil, something Schweinsteiger noted following Sunday’s victory.
“We are fit, we are hungry and we have some good players who are 25 years of age and around that age,” he pointed out. “It will give us hunger, absolutely. We want to do it again at the next tournament. The important thing is that these young guys have the experience of this tournament.”
Indeed, several of the leading lights in the team are in their mid-twenties, which is an optimum age if you wish to build a side that can dominate for years to come. They are also remarkably experienced. Mesut Özil is 25 and now has 61 caps. Jerome Boeteng is also 25, as is Mats Hummels, and they have 46 and 36 caps respectively.
Mario Götze, the World Cup match-winner is only 22, and has 35 caps. “Go and show the world you are better than Messi,” Löw challenged him before sending him on for Klose on Sunday. Others, too, are amassing caps at a remarkable rate; Thomas Müller at only 24 is bearing down on 50, likewise Toni Kroos.
Germany’s victory was being treated in Brazil as an enormous relief. “Obrigado” was the theme of nearly ever paper yesterday. “A great joy you gave to Brazil at the end of the cup of cups,” was the message relayed on the front of Lance!, a daily sports title. There are no hard feelings, clearly. Indeed, it is possible to sense a certain reverence from Brazil towards the team who humiliated them in their own backyard. Germany have lit the way. But they may prove a hard act for everyone else to follow.