BfB Goes To The World Cup 2010 (Without leaving the front room)

There is a levelling which football brings and a meritocracy. Argentina talked a good game – many have – but it is increasingly clear that in a tournament where the idea of overwhelming individual excellence of single players has (once again) been overshadowed by well crafted teams perhaps the best example of which is Joachim Löw’s Germany side.

The Germans put Argentina to the sword with a display of counter attacking football which had already cut through England in the second round but one could argue heaped more punishment on Diego Maradona’a South Americans than it did Fabio Capello’s English. Debate how many times the English scored against Germany all you may but the number is still higher than Argentina’s zero and from five minutes into the game when a Bastian Schweinsteiger free kick was met in the six yard box by Thomas Müller – unchallenged – who headed in.

It was Argentina exposed. The defensive soft centre which was feared exposed to all and as defenders fired dagger eyes at each other one’s mind drifted back.

One can almost imagine the scene in the Germany Football Authorities back in 2001. Sven Goran Eriksson’s had recorded a 5-1 win in Berlin and German football was at something of a low ebb. One imagines them looking for a solution. Whatever plan they came up with in the aftermath of that result has come to fruition. It is easy to look at the Germany example as the solution to every side’s woes and while implementing the German way all over Europe would probably cause as many problems as it would solve there is a freshness to the side.

Schweinsteiger is a fine example. Aged 21 at the last World Cup he is 25 now and plays the game with a cool head and evidence of rich experience as the lynchpin of the side. Compare this to the aged, stolid French or the English who have retained players from tournament to tournament. Philipp Lahm, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski are all under 26.

Argentina attack the Germans with Lionel Messi putting in a fine display in the heart of the South American’s midfield and his prompting and the hard work of Carlos Tévez are dangerous but as a side they are vulnerable and the ease of the German’s first goal had shaken Maradona’s men. Doubt had crept in – a doubt that would be realised – as on the occasions when the ball was given away the probing forward was frighteningly accurate and obviously effective.

The heart of the German side is Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira – the latter had a half dozen caps wen the World Cup started – who play the deep set midfielder role in a revolutionary manner. Popular conception has it that the two in a 4231 should be holding midfielders and ball winners but Löw’s pairing are more box to box players capable of tackling and getting behind the ball for sure but also able to be used as a spring board for attacking play.

For Schweinsteiger and Khedira there is no need to look for a passer after taking the ball – the pair are equipped to play in the three more forward midfielder – increasing the speed of the counter attack and its accuracy. What they loose in not having a Claude Makelele they gain in rapidity of play creating a nod to total football ideology. As Schweinsteiger plays the ball forward so Mesut Özil or Podolski or Müller can drop back and tackle.

This fluidity is a dream for Argentina – as it has been for many teams in this World Cup with the idea of player position granularity having become a mantra – and something they can never cope with. Javier Mascherano and Messi begin to look out of fashion with their skills so separate and the Germans take full advantage.

The second half is wonderful. Miroslav Klose ends up tapping the ball in from a yard after Schweinsteiger had burst out of the midfield to the touchline to centre from the flank behind the Argentine backline. Arne Friedrich adds a third and the fourth will perhaps be the goal of the tournament when a high paced flowing move form start to finish sees Klose volley home with aplomb.

It is flair channelled though practice and it is a joy to watch in the same way that the rest of the World enjoyed Sven’s side’s spanking of the Germans nine years ago. An object lesson which the rest of the game – so enchanted by the idea of having three types of midfielder – perhaps can learn from.

Argentina can take pride from their performance in World Cup 2010. They came from near out of South American qualifying and played with heart and skill to the quarter finals but they lacked the acumen of the rampant Germans who stride on to a semi-final as impressive as any who have worn the white and black of that nation.

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