Six games into Group C of the FIFA World Cup 2014 qualification stage, Joachim Low’s Germany find themselves a healthy five points ahead of nearest rivals Austria.
Although nothing has been set in stone, it's likely we will see Germany represented in Brazil come June 2014, which naturally leads to assessments of the current squad’s ability to improve on recent achievements — consecutive 3rd-place finishes in 2010 and 2006, preceded by a 2nd place in 2002.
With the impending retirement of veteran striker Miroslav Klose, the national team’s two most experienced players heading into the World Cup will arguably be midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger and captain Philipp Lahm.
However, all eyes will be on the younger players available for selection, with the likes of Mario Gotze (21), Marco Reus (24), Mats Hummels (24) and Julian Draxler (19) all capable of playing important roles for their country.
Add to this list of players the likes of Manuel Neuer (27), Thomas Muller (still only 23), Mesut Ozil (one of the world’s best playmakers at 24) and Mario Gomez (27), and you have a team with the perfect balance of age, experience, youth and energy.
Very rarely has a country seen such high levels of quality in players so young. The beginnings for much of the plethora of young talent available today can be traced back to the Bundesliga's superb youth facilities, and the emphasis laid by clubs ranging from the size of champions Bayern Munich to relegated Fortuna Dusseldorf on the training of youngsters.
The Bundesliga is considered one of the most attack-oriented leagues in Europe, which may be one of the reasons for which the current German squad is brimming with attack-minded talent, and players who have been nurtured from a young age and developed to suit the requirements of the league.
German club's tactical philosophies preach the importance of work ethic and the ability to gel as a unit (rather than depending only on individual talent), and this helps develop young players into tactically-aware cogs in the overall machine that is the team (cogs with undeniable individual quality, which always helps).
Also, the way the German Football Federation (DFB) regulates financial spending by clubs in the Bundesliga - participation in the next year’s league is granted only on the basis of satisfactory financial performances and the absence of threats of insolvency - means that signing big-name players in world-record deals has never been on the agenda.
Convincing proof being that the biggest ever transfer fee shelled out by a German team, other than Bayern Munich, is the 'paltry' sum of £22 million. Dortmund splashed out to bring Marcio Amoroso in at the beginning of the 2001/02 season.
German clubs prefer to invest in their youth academies, and nurture young, world-class talent. Although Dortmund may begin to spend more money on transfers than they previously have done under Jurgen Klopp, this will be not so much a change of focus on their part from their youth system to the transfer market, but a result of the money they have left-over from big-money sales of players like Shinji Kagawa and Mario Gotze.
The fact that Dortmund and Bayern can now be expected to maintain their impressive performances in the UEFA Champions League in the years to come bodes well for the national team, as many German youngsters will have the chance to prove themselves against foreign club's style of play time and again.
With the quality of the players Low will have at his disposal in a year’s time in Brazil, and in the years that follow, the smart money would be on Germany adding to their ever-impressive record at international tournaments sooner rather than later.
While Spain are currently enjoying a hugely productive period of dominance on the international stage, Germany’s investment in its future at club level will stand the national team in very good stead.
Gotze, Reus and co. could just spearhead Germany’s attempts to return to the summit of international football, reminiscent of the days of Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Muller.
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