Five's the prize for Germany

FINAL

GERMANY 1 (Mario Goetze 113) ARGENTINA 0

After extra time

The superlatives will continue to flow for some time for the newly-minted champions even as the hangover slowly recedes after the World Cup final on yesterday morning (Singapore time).

And why not, after Germany's historic triumph on South American soil, with Mario Goetze playing the improbable hero with a stunning finish to break Argentina's hearts at the Maracana Stadium.

Over the years, even with Italy's record of four world titles, only Germany were given the privilege of being mirrored with Brazil when it came to talk of the greatest football nation.

Now, they are on the march to possibly even outmatch the country which gave birth to the beautiful game.

From today, Germany will also have four world stars on their jersey, one behind Brazil's all-time record, and have already been made favourites for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

The country's football machine which had spluttered since their last world triumph in 1990, has been fixed, and is now a world-class animal that is the envy of nations across the globe.

Youth development is preached and invested in, Bundesliga clubs work to win and also help the national cause and the system was celebrated with victory here.

After the stunning massacre at Belo Horizonte, Zico went so far as to say Brazil had to exorcise pride and learn from Germany, if they wanted to repair their shattered reputation, and win again.

Minutes after steering his country to glory, coach Joachim Loew said his team could dominate world football for an era, and there does seem to be a hunger in this side to realise their full potential, with the 2016 European Championships their immediate target. That goal will be seen as a necessary stepping stone as the Germans focus on No. 5 in four years' time, to match Brazil, who are also the only side to have retained a World Cup.

If Brazil's superb winning team of 1958 - with a young Pele - was inspired by a collection of individual stars working as one to banish a tragedy on home soil eight years earlier, their 1962 side relied on the breathtaking talent of Garrincha to get them to the top. If this is their blueprint, then Germany 2018 will, in all likelihood, rely on the ethic of team, helped by the fact that many of the same players from the 2014 crop of champions will still be in the mix.

BUNDESLIGA PRODUCT

Miroslav Klose is retired, and of the other significant members of this squad, only Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski will be close to mid-30, after the country entered this tournament with an average age of 26.3 years, the sixth youngest in the competition.

Of the squad of 23 in Brazil, 16 play for clubs in the Bundesliga. Toni Kroos, 24 and newly moved from Bayern Munich to Real Madrid, came of age at this World Cup and should be a midfield general by 2018. Club-mate Thomas Mueller, also only 24, should also be at his peak as a prowling attacker.

And the Germans will also have the exciting attacker Marco Reus back, after he was ruled out of this tournament late due to injury.

Of course, four years is a long time and much can happen to change the international football landscape.

Injuries, loss of form, a clash of egos, which have hurt German teams in the past, could affect the world champions.

Rivals will also not sit still, eyeing the big target now on Germany's back.

Names like Messi and Neymar will crave redemption.

There will be many dangerous hurdles to cross for the champions, but right now at least, their focus and collective spirit holds them in good stead for 2018.

What struck me as I trailed the German build-up to the final was the team's relentless focus on the prize.

In the aftermath of the humbling of the hosts, there was a danger the stunning significance of the win could become a fatal distraction, but almost immediately, the likes of Mueller, captain Lahm and Loew said in interviews and press conferences that their only goal was the world crown.

They were a serene group at training sessions, playing, working and having fun together.

And at the Maracana yesterday, those on the hallowed playing surface were cheered on and backed by the supporting cast on the bench all through a difficult final against Argentina.

When Germany won their first world title in 1954, it took them 20 years to get their hands back on the trophy.

The hat-trick came after a 16-year break, and they went through their longest drought before lifting the World Cup again here.

At this moment, at least, it looks as if there will be a much shorter break before they win it all again.


This article was first published on July 15, 2014.
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