It’s hard not to resort to cliche when looking at the intricate preparations undertaken by Germany when it comes to World Cup’s, or indeed anything they do in relation to football. But if they do go on to lift their fourth trophy next Sunday night at Soccer City, FIFA may well need to make some extra medals.
News has emerged that a special research unit was set up at the German University of Sport in Cologne to monitor — get this — every player, in all domestic leagues and international matches that the Germans might have come up against in South Africa. All of their 31 World Cup rivals were assigned two students who complied a comprehensive dossier, full to the brim with hours of video footage, statistics, strengths and weaknesses. A German official explained further: “They analyze each player for his strengths and weaknesses. Does he swing the corner in or out? How does he take free-kicks or penalties. How does he play in one-on-one situations? Does he prefer to go left or right? They look at anything that will be important to us in playing teams like England and Argentina. They’ve watched all their games in qualifying as well as out here.”
It transpires that the idea started five years ago, under then coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s watch. The 2006 World Cup ended with the host nation finishing in a highly creditable third place. But one World Cup on, and they may well go two places better. Looking back on the 4-1 win over England, in the build up to the match, from the data provided by the students, Deutsche Fussball-Bund’s head of scouting, Urs Siegenthaler, produced a 15-minute video, highlighting that John Terry could be pulled out of position and Steven Gerrard and Gareth Barry wouldn’t keep their midfield positions, thus making the team vulnerable to the counter-attack. Indeed, those very counter-attacks caught England out in the second half. “We knew what to expect from England,” said Philipp Lahm, Germany’s captain. “We changed our tactics and were optimally prepared and that’s why we won.”
It was a similar scenario before Saturday’s comprehensive 4-0 thrashing of Argentina and, no doubt, we should expect to hear in the next day or so a couple of nuggets of information about the ease in which the likes of Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuain were so effectively nullified. They truly were terrifying at times against an Argentinian side who had appeared imperious up until facing the team that did for them yet again, just as at the exact same stage in Berlin in 2006. And you can bet your bottom Euro that, ahead of Wednesday’s semi-final, the Spanish have come in for a similar inquisition.