German success shouldn't be a surprise
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency
Germany's Miroslav Klose celebrates his goal during the 2010 World Cup quarter-final soccer match against Argentina. (REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach)
CAPE TOWN - Germany is like the girl who surprises everyone by showing up at the party with a makeover.
Suddenly, she's a knockout and the most popular person in the place. Suddenly, the Germans are the most popular team at the World Cup.
It's the wow factor. What a makeover.
There were plenty of favourites being bandied about heading into the 2010 World Cup. You heard a lot about Brazil, a lot about England, Spain and Argentina. Germany was hanging around somewhere after that only because Germany always seems to hang around and find a way to compete and win.
They have reached the semifinal 11 times in World Cup history. There weren't many who believed this team had the chops to win this World Cup. It was young, inexperienced in several positions and were missing midfield leader Michael Ballack. Four years down the road maybe, but this year? No way.
That tune changed in a hurry. This German team wasn't just hanging around and wasn't just winning. It was winning and lighting things up. It was playing the kind of football that was normally reserved for Brazil and Spain. Germany hammered Argentina 4-0 by playing better South American football than the South Americans.
Even Spain manager Vincente del Bosque likes what Germany has done to spruce up their program. The two teams are set to meet in one semifinal in Durban Wednesday.
"They recently set out to change a (style of) football which appeared to be worn out and tired," he said. "They have managed to refresh the team since the Euros and the proof of that is in their showings here. They have got a great group together."
It is a young group with Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller, Sami Khedira and others. How have things worked out so well?
Manager Joachim Loew's makeover in his lineup was fairly extensive, especially after Ballack got hurt. Loew said he changed the style of play. But he didn't pick just one style. He combined the best of different styles from the free-flowing South American style of play to the solid defending of Italy.
But there has to be more than just change of style. It is rare to see a national team with so many changes and so many young players weave the kind of magic Germany has in such a short time.
Some of the credit needs to go to the German Bundesliga. Every player on the national team plays in the Bundesliga, the German domestic league. They know each other, understand each other's style and as a result, know what to expect.
They play as if they've been together for years because in a sense, they have. The Spain-Germany semi is being billed as a rematch of the 2006 European Cup final won by Spain 1-0. It is a remath but in name only. Germany is a far different team than the cautious, deliberate team of 2006.
Spain was in top form in that European championship tournament. It had its top players playing like its top players. But the European champs have yet to hit that level in South Africa.
Right now, del Bosque is in the process of deciding what to do with out-of-form striker Fernando Torres. Every hour on the hour, a story breaks with a different storyline. Del Bosques will start Torres. Then the next hour, a story will break that del Bosques will sit Torres on the bench.
So far Spain has defended relatively well and David Villa has provided them with goals when it needed them. But Germany will provide an entirely new challenge. This German team has the ability to put the Spanish team under pressure. This isn't Paraguay who was willing to sit back and wait for something to happen.
The made-over German side will force Spain to come out and dance. It won't allow it to become a wallflower.