Over the last several years, there has been little doubt has to who has led the way in the sport of soccer. Since 2008, Spain has been the leader of the beautiful game at both the club and international level. The winners of Euros 2008 and 2012, along with a World Cup title in 2010, Spain has been the best in the world. At the club level, Barcelona has been spectacular, winning the Champions League in 2009 and 2011, playing eye-catching football, that has pleased even the harshest critics. However, a changing of the guard seems to be at hand.
Germany has always been a dominant force in world football. Three World Cup titles in 1954, 1974 and 1990 to go with three European crowns in 1972, 1980 and 1996 are proof that the Germans are a major power. In club football, Bayern Munich has won 4 European titles, and are one of the wealthiest clubs in the world, with a large world following. In recent times however, the Germans have seen their fortunes slip. Since winning Euro in 1996, the Germans haven’t won a trophy in International play, while Bayern Munich’s Champions League title in 2001, is the last time, a German side won Europe’s biggest club competition. There have been questions about Germany’s character in big matches over the last ten years. It should be noted that Spain has delivered crushing defeats to Germany, most notably in the 2008 Euro Final and the 2010 World Cup semifinal.
But the times are changing. While Spain have been struggling to find their form in World Cup qualifying, Germany have been cruising along, sitting atop of Group C in UEFA qualification, eight points clear of second place Austria. It is all but certain that Germany will be in Brazil for the biggest sporting event on the planet next summer.
But it is in club competition where the Germans have risen to power. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund will meet on May 25th at London’s Wembley Stadium to decide who are the champions of Europe. Both sides have been very impressive in the Champions League, but saved their best for the semifinals.
Bayern Munich demolished Barcelona by an aggregate score of 7-0, while Borussia Dortmund eliminated Real Madrid by a 4-3 aggregate score. Bayern’s destruction of Barcelona was shocking yet impressive. Bastian Schweinsteger was simply brilliant in the midfield, completely nullifying Barcelona’s tiki-taki approach. Forward Thomas Muller’s timely goals and direct attacking caused all sorts of problems. Philipp Lahm and the rest of the back four were a fortress in shutting down Lionel Messi, and the rest of Barcelona’s top scorers.
Borussia Dortmund have been the choice of soccer hipsters throughout the world. Manager Jurgen Klopp has instilled a plan of attack that has captured the hearts of many supporters. Dortmund love to push forward, and with the likes of talismanic figure Marco Reus, creative midfielder Mario Gotze, and Polish striker Robert Lewandowski, Dortmund have been glorious to watch. Holding midfielder Ilkay Gundogan is technically sound, while being a superb playmaker. Defenders Mats Hummels and Sven Bender are rocks in the back. In the first leg against Real Madrid, Lewandowski found the back of the net four times, as Dortmund tore Los Blancos apart. This is an impressive side that is looking for its first European title, since 1997.
The Bundesliga is also on the rise. Attendance is at an all time high and unlike the corporate English Premier League, the supporters have more ownership over the clubs. And it isn’t just Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund that are worth watching. Schalke 04, Borussia Monchengladbach, Hamburg SV, Bayer Leverkusen and Eintracht Frankfurt all play wonderful football to packed stadia and fanatical supporters.
It is a wonderful time for German football indeed. And with the World Cup a mere 13 months away, plus a Champions League Final featuring two top German clubs, Germany may be taking over Spain’s rightful spot, as the kings of football.
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