(First published in the Airdrie City View on May 19, 2016)
We’re less than a month away from my favourite sport finally becoming socially acceptable in Canada once again when UEFA Euro 2016 kicks off in France on June 10.
It has been two years since Germany became the first European team to hoist the World Cup on South American soil and I anticipate a lot more German flags will be flying from cars this summer because of it.
According to FIFA, on July 13, 2014, 1.01 billion people watched Mario Götze play a perfectly placed cross from André Schürrle off of his chest and past Argentine keeper Sergio Romero to break the deadlock in the game’s 112th minute.
It was the most watched soccer game of all time and Germany’s collective “well-oiled” style won a lot of fans over that day.
As it assumed the top spot on FIFA’s world ranking list, expectations for Germany to replicate and dominate during the upcoming Euro qualifiers were heavy.
Things didn’t really happen as planned.
The German football “machine” witnessed the retirement of valued experience in the squad including captain Philipp Lahm, key defender Per Mertesacker and all-time World Cup and German national leading goal scorer Miroslav Klose.
To make matters worse, Germany was plagued with injuries that forced young developing talent to hold the weight of a nation as they took to the pitch.
Germany struggled a narrow victory out of its Euro qualifying opener against Scotland and went on to lose to Poland for the very first time in the nation’s history.
In the end, Germany clenched the top spot in the group and qualified as expected, but it wasn’t the blowout World Cup winning dominance everyone expected.
The lackluster performance dropped Germany from the number one FIFA ranked team in the world to fifth, with Belgium the only European team ranked higher.
The Euro and World Cup are exciting times for soccer in North America. These competitions create an atmosphere that can turn casual fans into fanatics and introduces many to their first international soccer games.
Two years is a long time, though and much has changed. These kinds of details can be lost in translation to international competition-only fans that see Germany as the team that won the World Cup.
Both Schürrle and Götze were not in the starting lineup of that World Cup final game, and if Germany is to be successful at the Euros, more of its young talent needs to capitalize on the small opportunities given in big competitions.
The UEFA Euro 2016 will, however, stand to test Gary Lineker’s theory that “football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.”
We shall see.