Germany had been working for this for years—setting up a youth development programme that has few rivals in Europe; keeping football close to their heart by ensuring ticket prices remain affordable for Bundesliga, their top-flight league; keeping faith with the same manager for a long spell; and forsaking their old style of stiff, efficient play with one that gives equal importance to individual skills as well as teamwork.

The domestic system

In 2000, Germany were an ailing team, booted out of the European Championship that year after finishing bottom of the group. That sparked a nation-wide change in the way football was managed—that system has now borne fruit. The overhaul focused on youth football, and the creation of academies across the top two divisions in German football, as well as a massive push to produce trained coaches at all levels. Bundesliga is unique too: fans hold controlling influences over clubs, TV revenues are distributed evenly, and a cap on ticket prices means that the matches are the best attended in Europe. During the all-German Bayern Munich-Borussia Dortmund Champions League final in 2013, 26 of the players were products of the system. As is the entire team that won the World Cup.

The perfect quartet

The senior players who form the core of this side have been some of the most outstanding footballers in the world consistently for years. Bastian Schweinsteiger, the midfield engine behind a superlative Bayern Munich side lorded over his territory, making telling passes as well as crucial tackles and interceptions. Philipp Lahm is possibly the best fullback football has ever seen—and perhaps also the most versatile. He finished the World Cup as the most accurate passer of the tournament. Manuel Neuer made more saves and conceded fewer goals than any other goalkeeper. And to complete the quartet, a young striker, Thomas Mueller, with the extraordinary ability to ghost in to perfect scoring positions.

Bench strength

Most teams barely managed to put out an excellent playing XI, struggling to find similar quality in their substitutes: just look at Brazil without Neymar and Thiago Silva. But not Germany. On the day of the final, they lost one of their most influential midfielders, Sami Khedira. Then his replacement, the young Christoph Kramer went down with an injury. Kramer was replaced by Andre Schurrle who provided the pass for the spectacular winning goal. Who scored it? Mario Goetze, who came on for veteran striker Miroslav Klose.

Immigrant influence

Like in many other European countries, Germany’s immigrant population has changed the way the country plays football. This is not the tough, dour, uber-efficient sides of the past—this side, as Miroslav Klose said, blends “aesthetics and uber-efficiency". That blend is the result of a wonderful multicultural and multi-ethnic mix, exemplified by Khedira, Mesut Ozil and Jerome Boateng.

Joachim Loew

He came in as an assistant coach under the influential and attacking-minded Juergen Klinsmann in 2004, and was immediately involved in changing the German playing style to a more fluid, tactically shrewd, and high-on-skills affair. It worked. Germany finished third at the 2006 World Cup. When Klinsmann left, Loew was given a long-term mandate, allowing him and his team to grow together into a formidable and experienced unit. A shrewd tactician with a penchant for statistical data, Loew just went from strength to strength, taking Germany to the 2008 European Championship final, and to a third place finish at the 2010 World Cup, and finally, the World Cup itself.

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