Change, they say, is the only constant. In the constantly changing football environment, where technology, in all spheres, is beginning to have its say, there has been one constant at the football’s most celebrated event. They adapt, they deliver and they make a statement.
With their uncanny ability to peak at the right, and in high-profile, moment, the German football team, against popular ‘bookies’ prediction, pose as strong title favourites for the football carnival in the land of Brazil.
185 points short of top-ranked Brazil and marginally ahead of Spain, Germany occupy the second position in FIFA rankings. Coach Joachim Loew’s men occupy the position for more than a year now, with their only slump coming in September, 2013, where they briefly dropped to the third position. Since then, there has been no looking back for the clinical unit, who fired all cylinders in the qualifying stages of the FIFA World Cup.
After the Euro Cup heartbreak, where they team didn’t cross the semis stage, it was imperative for the Philipp Lahm-led unit to get into World Cup mode with an impressive stint at the Qualifiers. 36 goals, a comprehensive 16 ahead of second-best Austria’s 20, nine wins, one high-scoring draw, and Germany were well and truly tuned for the right beats in the Samba Land.
The Spain hurdle
Not once, but the Spanish team has denied Germany a major title twice in the 2010 cycle of the FIFA World Cup. Anointment of the “shrewd” Loew as coach injected a fresh lease of life into the German unit, who emerged stronger and sharper with a fresh dose of young faces. Result: they finished as runners-up to Spain in the Euro Cup, and were knocked out by the same opposition in the semifinal of the World Cup.
Tactician at work
Seeing his side stumble around the finish line, coach Loew wants to return from Brazil with a new high. String of impressive performances under their belt, the German unit is oozing with confidence and exhibiting impeccable fluidity on the field. After Loew taking charge, Germany have stuck to their traditional running hard and attacking philosophy, but have successfully experimented with creativity and fluidity in the middle. If the coach is to be believed, the aforesaid will be an integral part of all units at the World Cup.
“An essential part of our philosophy is flexibility and that’s the trend I’m expecting to see in Brazil. Teams have to be able to vary their tactics now more than at any time in the past. Playing with just a single system isn’t enough nowadays,” he told FIFA’s official website in an interaction. There are certain things which only Loew can do, and be confident of doing the same.
After the last-minute injury to Marco Reus, who was a vital cog in the German midfield, coach Loew was forced to make a change. But the change he made did raise some eyebrows across the football world. Instead of replacing the midfielder with another midfielder, he roped in defender Shkodran Mustafi.
A solid back-four with likes of Mat Hummels, Per Mertesacker, Philipp Lahm, Erik Durm, makes it unlikely that Mustafi will feature in the first XI.
Decoding the 4-2-3-1
With a 4-2-3-1 formation, a regularly adapted one in the Bundesliga, Loew is relying heavily on the midfield to feed lone striker Klose with ample scoring opportunities. The formation itself echoes fluidity and the coach has ensured to seal the right spot with the right man. The heavy midfield also ensures that the opposition will have to exhibit their best football to break into the German box, where a formidable back-four, led by Neuer, awaits them. In words of Winston Churchill, “to improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” Can Germany change enough to lift the title after a long gap of 14 years? We shall know in the coming weeks.