The Germany national team has always been considered a powerhouse in world football, and with their current crop of players there are no signs of that changing.
The Germans boast a very young team with a number of rising stars, who will surely become world class in the future.
After Germany experienced an embarrassing group stage exit from Euro 2000, the German Football Association decided that they will focus on youth development so that they will always be competitive in all future tournaments.
The Germans boasted stars like Michael Ballack, Dietmar Hamann and Christian Ziege but still finished bottom of their group after defeats to England and Portugal. That was the turning point when it was decided things needed to chance.
Germany went back to the drawing board and were able to reach the World Cup final in 2002 but lost 2-0 to Brazil with goals coming from Ronaldo. The Germans went into the game without star man Ballack, who was their inspiration in the tournament. Despite making that step forward after a disappointing Euro 2000, the three-time world champions knew that they had to improve their football in order to compete with the best teams in the world.
The youth development policy of the German Football Association started to pay off at World Cup 2006, which was hosted in Germany. Young players such as Bastian Schweinsteiger (21), Lukas Podolski (21), Per Mertesacker (21), Marcell Jansen (20) and Phillip Lahm (22) came to the fore and did well for the team at the tournament. Podolski was named the Young Player of the Tournament ahead of the likes of the then-Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona and Argentina starlet Lionel Messi.
Schweinsteiger and Lahm also earned praise for their performances. with Lahm also scoring one of the goals of the tournament.
The Germans were eliminated by eventual champions Italy in extra-time with goals coming Fabio Grosso and Alessandro Del Piero. However, this was just the start of a wealth of promising young players to emerge for Germany.
The Germans were again defeated in another final - this time at Euro 2008 by Spain. That team had more young players such as Podolski, Scweinsteiger, Lahm, Mertesacker, Heiko Westermann (24), Mario Gomez (22) and Rene Adler (23). The big news at the beginning of World Cup 2010 was that Ballack would not be in the team as he was out injured. Coach Joachim Low then announced that he would be replaced in the starting 11 by Stuttgart midfielder Sami Khedira (23), and he would partnered Schweinsteiger in the middle of the park.
The Germany team included several young players, all of whom earned their living in the Bundesliga. The only players over the age of 26 in that squad were goalkeepers Hans-Jorg Butt (36) and Tim Wiese (28), along with Arne Friedrich (31) and Miroslav Klose (32).
The rest of the 2010 squad included the likes of Mesut Ozil (21), Thomas Muller (20), Holger Badstuber (21), Marko Marin (21), Jerome Boateng (21), Toni Kroos (20), Dennis Aogo (23), Serder Tasci (23) and Manuel Neuer (24).
The Germans played the most attractive football in the tournament thanks to the silky-smooth passing ability of the likes of Schwiensteiger and Ozil. The Germans were especially devastating on the counter-attack as they scored many goals and were a real threat every time they were on the break.
They defeated the likes of Australia, Argentina and England, quite comfortably scoring four goals each time, making their opponents seem like amateurs despite being such a young team. They were, however, eliminated in the semi-finals by Spain as they suffered a 1-0 defeat. Muller won the Golden Boot for the most goals - five - along with three assists, and was also voted the Young Player of the Tournament.
In recent years, the Bundesliga has improved immensely due to the talents of the young players. The league now has four spots for the Champions League compared to three before. The top three in German football go straight to the group stages and the fourth spot team goes into the play-offs to try make it to the group stages.
German football has produced the likes of Mario Gotze (20), Marco Reus (23), Mats Hummels (24), Benedikt Howedes (24), Marcel Schmelzer (24), Andre Schurrle (22), Julian Draxler (19), Sven and Lars Bender (23), Ilkay Gundogan (22) and Marc-Andre ter Stegen (20). These are all star players in the Bundesliga who have been tipped to become world stars for Germany in the future.
Germany went to Euro 2012 as one of the favourites and were the team best-equipped to stop the Spanish team. The Germans once again selected a very young team with the oldest player selected being goalkeeper Wiese followed by captain Phillip Lahm (28). Germany fell short again as they were eliminated in the semis by the Italians. The failure of the German team was said to be the lack of experience and lapse in concentration which they got punished for.
There is no denying that the current crop of German internationals are top-class players. The playmaking position is in constant debate as many feel that Gotze and Kroos are as capable of starting in that role as much as Real Madrid's star man Ozil.
The position that seems the weakest is the striker position with Gomez and Klose the same candidates chosen to fill that role. However Podolski and Reus are known goalscorers and have played in that position many times for their clubs. Podolski, in particular, has played there countless times for Germany and has a proven scoring record in front of goal.
From World Cup 2002 to Euro 2012 the Germans have been knocking on the door of success but always seem to come up short. This is surely in the minds of the young players, who have endured criticism for not being able to get the job done.
Germany fans will hope that the recent failures will give their young stars the drive and determination to succeed in future tournaments. They certainly have world-class stars in every position on the pitch which should make them competitive in every tournament. The present moment is very bright for German football and the future seems even brighter as their young stars will develop into better players and gain more experience.
The change in the approach of the German Football Association has surely paid dividends and the expectations for future success could not be much higher. They boast many star names in their team who represent top European clubs week-in-week-out.
World Cup 2014 in Brazil may be the chance for the Germans to silence their critics and there is no doubt that they have the players to do it.
Questions remain over the mental strength of their young stars but there are constant signs that this current Germany team is and will always be a force to reckon with.
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