I have to start by first thanking those that continue to support Halftimeng in more ways than i can even mention. Over the last few weeks or so, I have been having doubts about writing because of some feed back that I got which kind of discouraged me, but I must thank the people that form the core of what I would call my ”appraisal committee”. It made me realize that the pursuit of perfection is a continuous journey that takes tonnes of effort, sacrifice and practice. I guess it is safe to compare my pursuit to what the Germans have achieved over the last three years, where they have conquered the world of football, holding the two primary world titles at senior level.
The Germans did not arrive at this position overnight, there was a clear concerted effort to dominate World Football at every level. This can be traced back to one of their biggest and worst defeats in their history as a strong footballing nation. The loss to a Croatian side at its peak in the quarter finals of France ’98 definitely had to be the turning point; I remember the outcry in the media, how could the then European Champions be so easily humiliated on the grand stage of the World Cup. This was a German team filled with stars in every department, it could compare favourably with many other German sides that had come before it, but they were bereft of ideas and seemed to have been out of their depth once the knockout rounds started; a smooth group stage peppered the cracks. Things unraveled when Klinsmann and Bierhoff bailed the team out in the final fifteen minutes of the second round match against Mexico, it was one stage too far when Croatia came calling in Lyon.
The problem was believed to be managerial, Berti Vogts was relieved of his duties for Erich Ribbeck to be recalled from retirement to take over the National team,twenty years late. It culminated in Germany’s worst period in International football; a group stage exit at Euro 2000 was the last straw and eventually the Germans decided to rip it all up and start afresh with a new direction. A younger manager was appointed in Rudi Voller, a concerted effort at reducing the number of over 30s from the previous squad was achieved, along came a World Cup Final loss to a Ronaldo led Brazil to validate these changes. In came Jurgen Klinsmann, another from the 1990 World Cup winning team or better yet the Franz Beckenbauer school of graduates to guide the Germans through their hosting of the 2006 World Cup. It led to the introduction of many innovations, Sports science, changes in training methods, relaxation of Nationalization regulations. This 2006 team had 18 players under age 30, an improvement from the 2002 squad, this team lost in the Semi Finals on penalties to Italy.
Of note from the 2006 squad was the presence of Joachim Low as Assistant to Jurgen Klinsmann, Oliver Bierhoff and Andreas Kopke also part of the set up; these three have remained in the German set up eleven years after, ensuring continuity of ideals, ideas and vision. Lets fast forward to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa; Germany were fresh from defeating England the previous year 4-0 at the finals of the 2009 European U-21 Championships with a team that showcased the new Germany; twelve of their twenty-three man squad to that tournament had players with links to other countries as far reaching as Nigeria (Chinedu Ede played for Germany in that tournament). The Germans had opened their borders and relaxed the Nationalization policies to absolve and accommodate Nationals of other countries; German embraced the World. Like it or not; this is what England are doing currently and it has started yielding results; just take a look at their squads to the U-21 World Cup and European Championships, they is a lovely mix of nationalities.
For Germany, it just wasn’t about relaxing its immigration restrictions, but getting the best out of these policies. You have to give it to Joachim Low for being bold to include the likes of Ozil, Khedira, Boateng etc in his 2010 Squad. Interestingly, the squad in 2010 had 20 players under the age of Thirty; of the three players over 30, Miroslav Klose was the only one you could consider a regular in that Squad; Germany were preparing with precision and efficiency that only comes with been Germans. By the time 2014 came calling these ”young men” were four years older, more experienced and exposed; they were ready to take over the world and this they did in emphatic fashion (remember the 7-1 bashing of Brazil).
Here we are in 2017 and we can comment on another successful conquest by the Germans, not just on one front but in two within a space of 24 hours; that has to be a record of some sorts. In order not to be accused of been anti women; you can also see some of these strides in the women’s game, both at National and Club level. A decision to be open minded, embracing other cultures and nationalities, identifying the best out of them for use ”for the greater good” is now reaping huge dividends. A proper Youth development program dedicated to ensuring that the best young players get their chance at National (senior) level is what has positioned Germany for dominance over the next few years. For crying out loud; this German senior side at the Confederations Cup was characterized by yours truly as inexperienced, young and naive; but these crop of players have shown that what you need is just to seize the opportunity and have a football public and media that believe in the work of the management team. Yes, Low has earned the right to tinker with the side to almost reckless proportions, but that only became possible because there exist a plan, set up to enhance the talent pool, whilst giving the coach the time to achieve his objectives.
If i may bring the German success back home and chronicle it with our last success at Senior level which is easily the Nations Cup win in 2013, how many coaches has Nigeria had since that victory? Well correct me if I am wrong, we have had five coaches in that space of time; lets not bother to go as far back as 2006 when Low took full control of Die Mannschaft. A clear cut youth development policy geared at embracing world best practices, devoid of federation interference, selection of coaches and players on merit, instilling a football playing & administrative philosophy/policies at all levels (club and national team levels), eliminating without fear or favour instances or incidences of age cheating and corruption are a few ways Nigeria can emulate and replicate the success of the Germans.
Congratulations Germany; World and Confederations Cup Champions & European U-21 Champions.
*** Pictures courtesy Reuters, Daily Mail and Sky Sports