let’s face it. the germans will win this worldcup. sad as it is, of the remaining teams in the tournament, they have the strongest team. by far! the only team that could have beaten them were brazil. on a good day … ok, on a very good day.
but while everybody and their vuvuzela-hating dog seems to rave how the germans play a much more attractive football than in previous years, i just don’t see it that way. and i really really tried to be open to see the beauty in their game. yes, there is more technical ability in the team. yes, they actually win games instead of just relying on their unbelievable luck – as most previous german squads did… but no, they don’t play a beautiful football. and here are my top 5 reasons:
football is all about emotions. it is fascinating to watch a team or individual players struggle with their emotions, to see how they might start to doubt in their abilities, then suddenly find confidence again and flare up with great exuberance. these emotional ups and downs are what make football fun to watch. almost all teams you’ll ever watch seem prone to emotional flare ups. not so the germans.
the germans seem extremely rational in their approach to football. let’s assume that there is no way that they don’t actually experience these emotions, the doubt, the fear, the nervousness, since these are part and parcel of human nature, isn’t it almost eerie how they somehow never seem to show them? they must have somehow found a way to push emotions aside. as a result they play more like emotionless robots. as we have seen time and time again this is very effective, but it is definitely not a lot fun to watch.
take the example of klose. this past season he hardly ever played for his club. every other player in this position would be insecure, or at least experience some doubts. not so klose. he just slams in goal after goal after goal. and even his goal celebration seems almost mechanical, no real joy there, just a little squirt of “jetzt aber”.
shock and awe
this well known military tactic seems to be what the germans use to win their games. watch any german game and you will notice that the first 10 to 15 minutes they play extremely aggressive football. germans just steamroll their opponents at the start of the game, they commit most of their fouls in the first 15 minutes. every player, including their strikers, rushes toward the opponents ball carrier, often two three players gang up for this and often they are just barely keeping it civil enough not be bookable offenses. they take that risk, because it helps them achieve what they want, which is to intimidate their opponent. they don’t try to impress with their skill, as brazilians or other teams do, but to put the living fear into the other team.
as a result german teams are feared, not respected. this type of behavior can be compared to that of schoolyard bullies. very often even the referees seem to get intimidated by it. when the spanish referee gave klose a red card for this type of bullying, the german team put in a lot of effort to criticize him after the game. the media intimidation seems to have worked. again they get away with much too much at the start of every game, with the referees turning a blind eye to their excessive aggressiveness.
physicality over technique
i love to watch football for the skill, the fast paced tricks and gems, the touches of genius, the surprising twists and turns. very little of that can be seen in the german game. while it is true that there is a little more skill in team, with özil and – at times – with schweinsteiger, most of what makes them win is still their physical dominance. it’s fast, it’s aggressive, and most of all it is very very very physical. but it lacks the fun factor.
everyone in germany is raving about the multikulti truppe, how all these players from different cultural backgrounds were integrated, how they have players with turkish, tunesian, polish, spanish, whatnot roots. but just check out their player with roots in ghana and tunesia. they look very very german when it comes to technical skills, playing the typical german “hauruck” fussball. of all these players with roots in different cultures only özil seems to have kept some flare and creativity. isn’t this strange? it almost looks as if they made a conscious effort to play in such a way. again, it might be effective, but it is not at all fun to watch.
football comes alive because of the stars. the messis, the ronaldos, the rooneys. you can like them, or not like them, but they add to football with their personalities, their stories, their style.
german teams generally don’t have stars. the only german star, ballack, was injured for the tournament. and some people wondered if the young team could cope with him missing out. strangely the team seems almost relieved by his absence.
there’s a german dictum, one of the so-called “deutsche tugenden” that have been cited many times before, the german virtues: “der star ist die mannschaft”, the star is the team. in theory i can maybe agree, but in practice, you need the stars to make football interesting to watch.
they use black magic
but seriously, something is not right. for instance, if you compare how argentina played in their previous games and then against germany, the difference seems almost unbelievable. argentina in their previous four games had created many great chances, and it was often only their opponents goalkeepers, who had to pull incredible stunts do deny them many more goals.
messi alone had at least 10 unbelievable shots denied by goal keepers, all of them were precise and placed in the corners. against germany every shot went straight towards the keeper. every single one! that is bizarre. and almost a little bit spooky. i mean, yes, the german play destructive football, they probably pressed messi harder than all the other teams. but how every single argentinian shot could go straight towards the keeper, not even forcing him to pull out one difficult save, that is more than a little bit weird. of course it is futile to argue the what if and could have beens, but if lampard’s goal would have been accepted, as it should have been, maybe we would have seen a different game.
another german dictum: “das glück erzwingen”. “to force one’s luck” would be my translation. for them this means fighting and fighting and fighting until luck finds you. ok, so far so good. but how can a german team at the same time force bad luck onto their opponents?