Two nations are more maligned than any other in the English language press coverage of international football, Germany and Uruguay. The Germans have acquired a reputation for football that is dull but purposeful, with lazy hacks using the term Teutonic Efficiency, as if efficiency was a bad thing.
A winning French side gets ‘Gallic Flair,’ the Brazilians ‘Samba Football.’
However, nothing the Germans could do would ever excite that kind of praise.
Uruguay had an even worse press. They were the embodiment of thuggish defensive tactics, designed to cripple talented opponents. Their sole World Cup win was derided as being too early to count, given a perpetual asterisk in history.
The 2010 World Cup ended all that. Uruguay were more honourable in their defeat than Brazil’s petulant reaction to their elimination and lit up many of the games they played in.
The exemplification of a Teutonic shift was the German v Argentina match, possibly the best match of the cup. Argentina had flair coming out of the wazoo. The mercurial Leo Messi joined Carlos Tevez, Gonzalo Higuain and Javier Mascherano, coached by the most flamboyant coach in the world, Diego Maradona.
Germany had the youthful, but I’m told highly attractive, Joachim Löw and a coterie of excellent club players, but with the loss of Michael Ballack through injury, very few who had scaled the utmost pinnacles on the international stage.
Not only were they young, they also had a squad that represented the multi-culturalism of modern Germany like never before with Mesut Özil, Sami Khedira, Mario Gómez and Cacau bringing a somewhat exotic touch to the Nationalelf (National Eleven), as the Germans call their side.
The absence of Michael Ballack through injury in retrospect now looks like a blessing in disguise. A very young German side played with exuberance and verve, none more so than the 21-year-old Thomas Müller.
In that match, they dismantled Argentina with a display of team football as joyous as any in the tournament. It was as close to the term, always freely awarded to any decent Dutch side, ‘total football,’ as seen in a long time.
The world finally gave the Germans credit for the beauty of their game. And I am happy to do so too.
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