On July 13, 2014, the bright Estadio do Maracana in Rio hosted the World Cup Final, which saw Germany achieve a slim 1-0 victory over Argentina and solidified Germany’s fourth World Cup win — their first win as a unified nation. Despite the Messi-led Argentina giving Germany an honorable run for their money in the final, few could disagree that Germany was by far the best team throughout the tournament and certainly deserved to be the champions of the 2014 World Cup.
When Mario Goetze poked the Brazuca ball past Argentine keeper Sergio Romero in the 113th minute, gifting his team the crucial lead, many thought that this victory would usher in a German era of dominance in World Football. Goetze himself was only 22 years old and one of the best young players in the world, yet he was just one of many, making it seem like a German dynasty was inevitable.
Unfortunately for German fans, 2014 was a peak this team was unable to ever reach again. While they won the 2017 Confederations Cup with a reserve squad, they succumbed to a semifinal defeat at Euro 2016, before getting embarrassingly eliminated in the group stages of the 2018 World Cup during Germany’s worst result in World Cup history.
The 2018/19 Nations League did not see an improvement in form, as Germany finished bottom of their group and were saved from relegation only by a change in the rules. So far in 2020, the German National Team has played five matches and only won once. With all this in mind, is it correct to refer to the 2014 German Team as a failed dynasty?
There is definitely credence to this team being considered a failed dynasty, as their performances in the years following the 2014 World Cup have massively declined. There are several reasons for this massive dip in form.
For example, one could point to manager Joachim Loew, who has been Germany’s head coach since 2006 and was an assistant coach for two years before that. Some say that Loew’s style has gone stale and his tactics are predictable, yet he remains in his position. On the other side, he has had many great achievements during his long tenure, so it may not be justified to fire him so carelessly.
One could also argue that the team has become complacent or even arrogant, to the point that they lost their winning ambition. Winning the World Cup is mentally one of the hardest things to accomplish in football, so finding the motivation to do it again is nearly impossible. Germany is not alone either, as the four of the previous five champions have been eliminated in the group stage of the next tournament.
Furthermore, Germany sent a reserve team made up mostly of young and/or fringe players to the 2017 Confederations Cup, which they still won. This victory may have instilled an arrogant mindset throughout the main squad; if the JV team can beat everybody else, why does the varsity team even have to try?
However, while those factors played a large part in Germany’s decline, the biggest reason was probably the overall decline of player quality throughout the ranks. Out of the 23-man squad Germany sent to World Cup in Brazil, not a single player is better now than they were six years ago. Some are even shadows of the players they used to be. On the flip side, while Germany still produces many new talented players, only a select few of newcomers are able to fill the shoes of their predecessors.
First off, many important players in the squad who were already older simply retired or moved on in their careers. Team captain Philipp Lahm, as well as Miroslav Klose and Per Mertesacker, retired from international duty following the 2014 World Cup. Lahm retired from football in 2017, Klose in 2016 and Mertesacker in 2018. Several other players visibly saw age catch up to them as well. Benedikt Howedes retired from football this year and has not played a match for Germany since 2017 and Roman Weidenfeller last played for Germany in 2015 before retiring for good in 2018. Lukas Podolski retired from international duty in 2017 and has since been winding down his career with clubs in Japan and Turkey. While it definitely hurt the national team to lose players of this quality, it was inevitable and expected given their age.
However, what was not expected was the sharp decline in form by many of the German players who were in their prime. For example, Bastian Schweinsteiger’s transfer to Manchester United never panned out, which caused him to eventually leave to the MLS before retiring, and Mesut Oezil saw a rapid deterioration of form at Arsenal, with a fall from his position as one of the most talented playmakers in the world to a frequently-benched and fan-hated player. Oezil’s career with Germany ended up even worse as he had a falling out with the German Football Association after the 2018 World Cup collapse and then quit the team.
Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng are far from the reliable defenders they were in 2014. Though Boateng won the treble with Bayern last season, he was often the weak link in defense. Shkodran Mustafi went from a promising young player to an error-prone defender who is now the butt of internet jokes, while Julian Draxler has since wasted his once fruitful career, becoming a bench player at PSG who barely plays.
For mostly reasons out of his control, Mario Goetze, who scored the winning goal in the 2014 final, saw his career take a turn for the worse when he was diagnosed with a metabolic disorder which greatly affected his game and restricted him from ever reaching the peaks of his early career again. While Manuel Neuer, Thomas Mueller and Toni Kroos are still among the best players in the world, they all went through a period of extremely poor performances in recent years before retaining their form last season.
The most extreme cases of decline have to be those of Kevin Grosskreutz and Andre Schuerrle. Grosskreutz’s fall from grace started when injuries saw him leave Borussia Dortmund for Galatasaray, where he failed to play a single match due to a contract dispute; he left for Stuttgart shortly after. A myriad of personal and legal issues meant his tenure in Stuttgart ended quickly as well, and Grosskreutz found himself playing for clubs in the third division of Germany until this season, where he currently does not have a club.
Schuerrle, on the other hand, who assisted Goetze’s winning goal in 2014, was doing well until injuries derailed his career. He swapped Chelsea for Wolfsburg then Borussia Dortmund, but fans would only see glimpses of his talent before he was loaned out to other clubs with little success. Following the end of his final loan spell at Spartak Moscow last summer, Schuerrle retired from football at only 29 years of age, stating that he does not enjoy football anymore.
With all this in mind — the decline of the player quality in the squad, and the old and predictable tactics leading to subpar results — one could say that this team has reached its end, never reaching the potential level of a dynasty. However, there is still a chance. While the German team from 2014 to the present has seen a decline, there is one point often overlooked: this team did not begin in 2014. In fact, the core of the German team that won the World Cup was a combination of two generations, roughly starting in 2006 and 2010 respectively. Players like Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Lukas Podolski and Per Mertesacker became key members of the team during the 2006 World Cup. By contrast, players like Manuel Neuer, Sami Khedira, Mesut Oezil, Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos and Jerome Boateng came to prominence during the 2010 edition. The fusion of these two groups of players created a team that was one of the best teams (and arguably the most consistent) of the past two decades.
While the peak of this German squad was in 2014, this German squad had been at the top of world football since 2006. At the 2006 World Cup, which Germany hosted, the team finished in third place. This seems like a bad result at face value, considering Germany could not win the cup on home soil. In reality, a bronze medal was a huge success, considering the German team was going through a rough patch after being eliminated in the group stages at both Euro 2000 and 2004, meaning that expectations were far from great. But, when it was all said and done, the team ended up in third place, defeating several strong teams along the way and only losing to eventual-champion team Italy in the semifinals.
At Euro 2008, Germany would massively improve on their previous performances in this tournament, finishing runners-up after narrowly losing 1-0 to Spain in the final. Two years later, at the 2010 World Cup, Germany would play even better than in 2006 and finished in third place again after losing 1-0 to eventual-champion team Spain and beating a very strong Uruguay side in the third place play-off.
Euro 2012 would see another great performance from Germany as they made it to the semifinals, only missing out on the final after a 2-1 loss to Italy. While Italy outplayed Germany on the day, Germany had arguably the better team throughout the tournament and was unfortunately not able to reach the final.
Following their 2014 World Cup victory, Germany headed into Euro 2016 as favorites to win. Much like Euro 2012, Germany was eliminated in the semifinals, this time by France, following a spirited second-half performance by the French. While France was the better team in the second half, Germany was the overall better team throughout the tournament, and could even be seen as the best team at Euro 2016 in terms of play. Despite losing to France, it was far from a poor showing.
Later that summer, Germany also won silver in Men’s Football at the 2016 Rio Olympics, but that was admittedly with a youth squad, as per Olympic Football rules. Similarly, Loew decided to bring a squad filled with young and fringe players to Confederations Cup 2017 rather than his starting lineup. In the face of inexperience, Germany still found a way to win the entire tournament.
Forging a dynasty involves a team having consistent success over a long period of time. While Germany’s success started to fade after 2014, the team still had nine great performances at major tournaments (10, if you include their third place finish at the 2005 Confederations Cup). The only thing that stopped them from actually winning these tournaments was another team building their own dynasty: Spain, who won everything in sight in the late 2000s and early 2010s in what would turn out to be one of the greatest teams of all time. Spain even directly beat Germany in both Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010. Is it any coincidence that the year when Germany finally wins a trophy was the same year Spain’s dominance officially came to an end following their group stage capitulation at the 2014 World Cup?
But in order to officially have created a dynasty, most people would agree you have to win multiple trophies over a period of time. By this standard, you could not consider Germany for the criteria of a dynasty. But take nothing away from their success from 2006 to 2018; Germany was one of the best teams on the planet and arguably the most consistent. If not for Spain, they may have picked up a few more medals.