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Will this Germany team actually improve?

With an average age in the early 20’s and a third place spot to boast this time around the whole world is expecting this Germany side to improve and go a step further at the next World Cup. Only football doesn’t always work as simply as that. Just as four years ago Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller and Sami Khedira were not names any football fan would be familiar with we know in four years time there will be other players who are making a name for themselves in the same way. This time around it was a young Germany side defeating an experienced England and Argentina side. Next time around it might be a young Argentina or England side defeating an experienced Germany side.

There is a general idea in football that age and experience correlates with a players performance. The idea is that as they become older they become better. As a rule this is false. Some players improve, others digress. For every Zinedine Zidane, a player who gradually improved until reaching his peak in his late twenties, there is a Michael Owen, a player who set the world alight as a teenager and then faded away as he grew into his twenties. For every Wladislaw Zmuda, the young player of the tournament in 1974 who never played as impressively again, there is a Luis Figo, a player who improved with age. Simply put, not all players progress as expected. Some blossom early and then fade away. Others appear dormant and then bloom late. There is no guarantee that this collection of Germany players will all improve. For some of them, perhaps even most, 2010 will be as good as it gets and it will be naïve to think that in 2014 the line-up will largely resemble this one. The likelihood is only half of the players who featured here will appear then in Brazil.

Once we push the euphoria surrounding this free scoring team aside we should recognise that they were not quite good enough in defence and not quite as commanding in midfield as some would have you believe. Exceptional at the counter attack and ruthlessly efficient with the chances they do create, this Germany side is at once exciting and attractive. None of this guarantees progression from a semi-final place in 2010 to a winners medal in 2014.

Joachim Low might not be around, at Euro 2012 there will be huge expectations to fill, and there will be an abundance of pressure on this team for the next 4 years. Everybody is now expecting them to progress. The onus is on Germany to prove the myth true, teams do improve with age.

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