"We will prepare ourselves like a world champion." Such was the call from German national team coach Jogi Low, per The Telegraph, during a press conference at the end of last year. "I also think that we, because of the last four years, are among the favourites. We face up to this task and we put this pressure onto ourselves."
Yet as we now enter 2014 and the World Cup that awaits with fresh faces, it has become all too apparent that Germany's stake in this coming international tournament is a little beyond just 'among the favourites.' Low's side are the team to beat this summer.
Yes, there are Brazil. The samba hosts who will undoubtedly be the bookies' favourites, with the advantage of playing in their own country and the support of millions, but man for man their team just do not look quite as appealing.
Then there are Spain. The current European and World champions, yet they too look frail following a surprise defeat to Brazil in last year's Confederation Cup and can't surely be expected to continue winning tournaments with the same style and extravagance that appeared on the scene four years ago.
Compared to Germany, the other two just don't stack up.
Of course it is the Bundesliga itself—the domestic league that works hand in hand with the country's FA in a way that we in the UK could only dream of—that is the true jewel in Germany's crown and the envy of millions across the continent.
Last year, the 18 Bundesliga clubs spent nearly €80 million on youth development within the league, taking the total invested since the program began in 2001 to a staggering €820 million.
To look upon German football in it's modern form is to see the future of productive and efficient allocation of resources within a country that is striving for a single goal as one. The Bundesliga is quite simply the factory floor upon which the top-of-the-line sports car that is the German national team is formed.
But it isn't just Germany's devilish attention to detail that makes this footballing nation so well regarded. It has a soul too.
From the notorious and dramatised, liberal St Pauli crowds in western Hamburg, the famous yellow wall at Dortmund's Westfalenstadion, to the old clubs in Nuremberg and Munich; Germany has a strong and proud history within its passion for football. Where the fans always come first.
This is where Germany truly shines amongst its peers throughout the modern game. England may have invented the beautiful game and Brazil may have reclaimed it as their own, but it is Germany that has taken the beautiful game and cared for it with such grace. If Brazil is the where football's soul may lie, then it's heart and its brain most definitely reside somewhere between Berlin and Munich.
However, it isn't just fan culture or a stable league system that makes Germany great. They have a pretty solid squad of players too.
At face value we can make a brief run through the first team and pick out a number of world-class players, with no equal throughout Europe, that are more than capable of winning a World Cup.
In fact it is throughout the continent that we find most of this nation's top players sprinkled across some of the most decorated clubs. From the consistent and cool head of Bayern Munich's Manuel Neuer in goals and team captain Philipp Lahm at right back, Real Madrid's midfield enforcer Sami Khedira, to Arsenal's own magic man in front of goal Mesut Ozil; Germany can stack up a considerable amount of match winners that would walk into any side in this coming tournament.
Even as we peel away the poster boys from the top of the pile, Low's squad still looks more than capable of challenging against the best of the rest.
Dortmund's own Ilkay Gundogan and Marco Reus join other young prodigies in the form of Bayern's Mario Gotze and Schalke's Julian Draxler in a small band of players who may yet prove to be the key to any success Germany hope to pick up in the summer.
It is through these young players—each of whom sought after from every major club across the world—that Low has a number of alternative options if things become a little tricky. Is Thomas Muller not playing direct enough? Bring on Marco Reus. Is Ozil looking a little jaded? Bring on Mario Gotze. This is where Germany's product line of endless talent truly comes to fruition and exemplifies the vital difference between them and everyone else.
And these aren't just untested, raw talents either. Each has done enough to prove their pedigree. It is Dortmund and Bayern who facilitate the majority of Germany's players and it is primarily through these two clubs that Germany already has a squad used to beating the best that Spain, Italy or even England can offer. Last season's Champions League final between the two Bundesliga giants featured no less than 14 German internationals.
Bayern may have won the game and claimed the trophy that day, but it was Germany that truly won the prize of a generation of players who now know what it takes to overcome any obstacle and reach the final of a major tournament. It's a true desire to ensure that you always win and something that Low's side clearly lacked in Euro 2012 or the World Cup before that.
This summer, the 2014 World Cup will commemorate 24 years since Germany last won the right to call themselves the best team in the world. Making this current dry spell the longest period of time in which Die Mannschaft have gone without winning football's ultimate prize.
Yet with the tools, ability and hunger that now resides within Jogi Low's side, it seems as though the conditions are perfect for another long-awaited trophy. Germany may only be amongst the favourites for this coming festival of football, but they are certainly the team to beat.
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