KEIR RADNEDGE in ST PETERSBURG: Serious questions will need to be asked back home if Germany, next year, do not return to Russia and become only the third nation in World Cup history to grasp the prize twice in succession.
Italy achieved the double in 1934 and 1938 and then so did Brazil in 1958 and 1962. That Joachim Low has all the tools and the talent at his disposal is beyond doubt.
They won the World Cup in 2014 in Brazil – the first European nation to do so outside their home continent – and over the past weekend collected the European under-21 crown and the Confederations Cup.
Such a depth of quality amid quantity delighted the coach who was imperturbable at the way Lars Stindl’s early goal – securing a 1-0 victory over Chile – bestowed on Germany the role of World Cup favourites a year ahead of time.
The pace of growing maturity within Germany’s scratch squad was evident both in the statistics that the final victory represented their first clean sheet in the five games but also the manner in which they withstood the increasingly bad-tempered antics of the South American champions.
Indeed Chile’s Gonzalo Jara should have been sent off for elbowing Timo Werner in the face in the closing stages. The decision of Serb referee Milorad Mazic to brandish only a yellow card after watching the replay on a pitch-side screen underlined how video assistance is not necessarily a panacea for match officials’ misjudgments.
Low thought a red card would have been appropriate but, in the euphoria of victory as his champagne-spraying players invaded the post-match press conference, it was little more than an afterthought.
Low said: “I’m very proud of this team because they have been playing together for only three and a half weeks but you could feel every day in our training session that something special was happening.
“It’s well deserved but of course we had to fight hard because the Chileans are very robust players but, especially in the one-on-ones, we did a good job in standing up to them. We fought for every single ball to defend our lead.
“It was a magic match for our younger players and the single-minded way we went about it was impressive.”
Low acknowledged the injection of confidence victory will have brought to his largely untried squad but cautioned: “We have players for whom winning both the European under-21s and this tournament will have instilled a great deal of self confidence. For many it was their first big tournament. But getting to the top and staying at world class level are different challenges.
“The foundation is great but next year we have to work really hard to defend it.”
Low had particular praise for the consistency and leadership qualities of stand-in captain Julian Draxler, who was nominated as player of the tournament, and acknowledged “a historic achievement, unique in German football history.”
He added: “You have seen players with comparatively little international experience playing at top-quality level, dealing with the pressures in the early minutes then creating great counter-attacking opportunities.
“At home we have great players and they are still playing at a highly professional level but now we have created alternatives and this was my objective: I wanted to develop young talent and give young players the chance to gain experience in tournaments just like this.”
As for the World Cup defence next year, Low accepted the status of favourites even at this distance.
He said: “Germany are always favourites no matter what the tournament. But just because you win the Confederations Cup and the European Under-21s it’s no guarantee of being world champions again.
“In the World Cup there are many more competitive teams and you have to do so much in just four weeks so we will need to deal with that. We don’t have a problem being favourites but for any tournament you have to perform at 100pc all the time so we’ll try our best to do that next year.”
Germany, as they proved in such intimidating fashion, certainly have everything it takes.
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