Growing up German … means honoring our aging and mostly deceased footballing legends and celebrating the dominant national teams of the 1970’s and late 80’s/early 90’s. It also means reveling in the German footballing renaissance that really began at the 2006 World Cup and is now flourishing. We remember how we scraped and clawed in 1954 to earn our erster Stern (the first star) in what the footballing world has come to know as ‘Das Wunder von Bern’, a true miracle of a world cup performance by Die Mannschaft led by no other than 1. FC Kaiserslautern legend Fritz Walter.
Fast forward 20 years to 1974 and the 2nd star earned by a fierce German side that included the likes of Beckenbauer, Netzer, Maier, Mueller, Vogts, Breitner and Hoeness. Winning the world cup on home soil in Germany was spectacular … equally impressive was beating the Netherlands led by the Dutch master himself Johan Cruyff and the team’s Total Football philosophy.
Our last Stern came in 1990 when Germany beat Argentina in Italy. It marked the second Germany v Argentina world cup final encounter … in 1986, Argentina and Diego Maradona (and his ‘hand of god’) beat the Germans 3:2. The 1990 team really reflects my generation and the heroes I grew up with throughout grade school and high school. Household footballing names such as Matthaeus, Klinsmann, Voeller, Brehme, Koeller, Buchwald, Augenthaler, Illgner, Littbarski and Haessler lived up the hype of favorites and were the first European team to beat a South American squad in a world cup final.
The world cup in 2006 hosted by Germany really changed the game. Dubbed “Deutschland, ein Sommermaerchen”, thanks to an award-winning soccer film documenting the German’s quest for footballing glory in the Vaterland, the nation unified like never before to support the national team and most importantly re-discover its national pride. Led by national coach and #1 Germany cheerleader Juergen Klinsmann and awe-inspiring play by Miro Klose, Michael Ballack , Bastian Schweinsteiger, Phillip Lahm, Lukas Podolski and the rest of the 2006 Mannschaft, we collectively hit the attacking football ‘reset’ button. The 2006 team displayed a very aggressive, attack-focused, yet disciplined and technically superior style that has now become its trademark. Also, that year, we re-discovered what it’s like to compete at the highest level and beat big teams (such as Argentina in the Quarterfinals). This confidence and attacking mindset carried over to South Africa where ‘Jogi’s 11’ managed to beat footballing powerhouses England and Argentina by a combined score of 8:1.
Fast forward 8 years … Die Mannschaft, this time around led by team captain Phillip Lahm, and what many consider the golden generation of ‘new school’ German Fussball are on the verge of securing our country’s fourth star and world cup victory; ironically, facing the same Argentinian side Germany beat the last time it raised the trophy. However, in contrast to other German teams and time periods of greatness, this generation could have staying power. Case in point, 12 players of the current 23 man roster are 25 years or younger. The German soccer academy system is in full effect and if some breaks go our way and the talent continues to develop at existing rates, the team could emulate Spain-type global soccer domination. In fact, after Tuesday’s record-setting and utterly dominant 7:1 victory versus host nation Brazil anything short of a 4th star and world cup final victory today would be considered tragic.
So as we prepare for battle today … whether that’s fighting our way through the crowds at world cup public viewings (The World Cup Fanatics will be doing it up at Atlanta’s Der Biergarten); sneaking a long lunch break (for those unlucky enough to be working) to catch the match, or sitting home alone with no distractions, just utter focus and determination, let’s remember Germany’s incredible footballing heritage but understand that all of us are a part of the next chapter of German World Cup glory. To take a page out of U.S. Soccer Supporters’ playbook … “I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN”.