5WFootball editor Barney Stephenson has brilliantly traced the phoenix-like rise of the fortunes of German football through the lens of Philipp Lahm. It began from the ashes, ‘the worst team to ever make a World Cup final’ to the sky-high heights of that night in Rio de Janeiro in 2014, where an elite German outfit bested Argentina, led by the greatest player to ever play the game. This rise, he suggests, had both its antecedents and repercussions in and for the German kingpins, Bayern Munich, whose players made up six of the German starting eleven in the final. Bayern’s rise and dominance are well documented. They have won each edition of the Bundesliga since the Klopp-led triumph with Dortmund in 2012/13, winning fourteen of the last twenty Bundesliga titles. But, despite what your dad says, the Bundesliga isn’t a boring one team-league filled with Bayern; Porsche engineers from Baden-Württemberg, pilsner brewers from Saxony, and hipsters in Berlin.
“Football is a simple game. 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win” – Gary Lineker, 1990.
Over time, Germany as a footballing nation has been ruthless. They have had multiple times where the referee blows the full-time whistle and leave the watchers sat at home, thinking ‘How have they won that?’ It’s true, Germany do have their fair share of luck.
For Michael Ballack, it was a little different. He was Germany’s nearly man, described by Udo Muras for Die Welt as “the lone shining light in a leaden era” – he never had the glittering talents alongside him such as Toni Kroos or World Cup winner Mario Götze, instead he had Torsten Frings and Carstein Jancker as his teammates for Die Mannschaft.