Germans believe their time is now

Germany may increasingly represent the future of international football, but the current message is all too clear: they feel they’re finally ready to rule the present.

On the eve of a semi-final against a country they have never beaten in tournament football, both manager Jogi Löw and midfielder Bastien Schweinsteiger struck a resolute tone.

“Our team is perfectly capable of beating anyone in the world,” Löw proclaimed.

Whatever about their history against Italy though, that also indicates a deeper backdrop to this semi-final. As much as Germany play with a unique, youthful freedom, there does seem an increasing pressure to build all of this pulsating football to a proper, fitting peak.

Prior to Euro 2012, it could have been argued they were unlucky to be around in the same era as this Spain side. But, if they don’t win tonight, they may start to develop the feeling of a ‘nearly team’.

Schweinsteiger couldn’t but acknowledge this. In keeping with the utter confidence emanating from the German camp though, he feels such pressure has no effect. Rather, it’s just a sign that they are within touching distance of a trophy.

“Since 2005, we have been going up and up and up. We don’t have the crown yet but we are getting closer and closer and closer.

“I have the feeling that the point has now come that we can beat the next big opponents. We’ve beaten Argentina, Brazil, England and Holland. We hope the next one is the Italians. I’m very positive about the match.”

There are plenty of reasons to be positive. Aside from the fact Germany are the most in-form and prolific team in the tournament, with four wins from four and nine goals in those games, that is the natural result of a deep-rooted philosophy set by and underscoring a seamless infrastructure.

Löw made sure to praise the kind of cross-body co-operation that has been sorely missing from Britain and Ireland. It means the current team has matured and grown from a much better base than everyone except the Spanish.

“Since 2008, we’ve learned to be more technical,” Löw said. “Our philosophy is to embed that. This is what we’ve done with the national team. That’s the football we want to play. That’s why we look for certain types of players that can play at this level. So, from that point of view, our football is like a product here in Germany; a product of many institutions — the clubs, the DFB.”

Schweinsteiger, meanwhile, offered the personal experience of all this.

“It’s the whole team spirit. There’s a really healthy mixture of players here. It’s very relaxed and also very focused on the football.”

That very statement, however, raises another big question about this side and this semi-final. Because of the very nature of the team’s development, it would seem Germany are better suited than Italy to sticking to their proactive, possession game.

There though, something is going to have to give beyond Italy’s excellent tournament record against Germany or the latter’s supreme form. Someone is going to have to adapt and alter their naturally attacking game. In a tournament where the four semi-finalists have been praised for pushing their limits rather than working within them, one of tonight’s sides is going to have to concentrate on stopping the other team more.

Surprisingly, despite all the talk of the “new German way”, it was Löw who kept his cards closest yesterday.

By contrast, Cesare Prandelli spoke about this issue in a way that was every bit as resolute and defiant as Germany were about their own progress. The Italy manager said there was simply no way his team were going to revert to his country’s football stereotype.

“Those who can read the game keep saying it’s going to be an open match,” Prandelli said. “We’ve got one particular weapon at our disposal: possession. We can’t go back to what we were. We’ve spent two years practicing this approach. It would lack maturity to revert.”

Daniele De Rossi echoed his manager.

“The only thing we’ve got at our disposal is that: to keep the ball. If they come and press us high up the pitch, then the only way to resist is to keep the ball and get away from this pressing.

“I think it’s going to be a historic game.”

There, Germany will agree with De Rossi, if for different reasons. But, despite that confidence and the greater belief the Germans should have in their approach, it’s Italy who appear more defiant about not deviating from formula.

Throughout this tournament, both Prandelli and Löw have probably been the two managers who have been most impressive in terms of assuredly explaining their philosophies and how they implement them.

Today, such words will give one of them the final say.

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