It was obvious in 2009 when Germany won a particularly strong UEFA European Under-17 Championship on home soil that they had a great squad. That one of them would score a FIFA World Cup final winner five years later was somewhat less predictable.
Mario Götze, who had been coming through the ranks at Borussia Dortmund for the previous eight years, was given the No10 shirt in the U17 finals and a playmaker position to match. The 16-year-old did not take long to make his mark in the 4-0 defeat of England that ensured progress from the group stage. Indeed in the words of the UEFA.com report he "sealed a fine performance late on when he waltzed round several defenders and slid the ball into the far corner".
Having already beaten Turkey 3-1, Germany were through and Götze was rested for the defeat of the Netherlands. However, he returned to meet Italy in the semi-finals and was a thorn in the Azzurrini side in the 2-0 win, saying afterwards: "I am relieved to have assisted in the goals, and now we are in the final."
The Netherlands awaited in front of a competition-record 24,000 crowd in Magdeburg, described by Götze as "our goal for the last two years – that is what we have worked for". In the final, Götze took the game to the Netherlands and Germany won an epic 2-1 after extra time.
Götze had been the central fulcrum of Germany's attack, his pace and creativity adding to his sure touch. Captain Reinhold Yabo said of him: "Mario is a very creative player. We call that sort of player a 'Schlitzohr' in German, which means that he is a very tricky and very creative player who always has an idea – on and off the pitch! He is a funny guy who can always decide a match by himself."
Tellingly, Joachim Löw, who was in the stadium for the final, was in no doubt when asked which player had stood out for him: "Mario Götze has been in good form throughout the tournament."
Six months after the U17 final, Götze made his senior Dortmund debut. The following season he scored eight goals and assisted 11 in all competitions, helping the Schwarzgelben to claim the Bundesliga title. Even a hip injury in early 2012 could not slow his progress and in 2012/13 he scored 16 and made 13 club goals, missing the UEFA Champions League final due to a thigh problem but earning a then German record €37m move to FC Bayern München.
Löw gave Götze his senior Germany debut on 17 November 2010 against Sweden, making him the youngest player to represent the Mannschaft since Uwe Seeler and the first to be born since reunification to be capped, along with André Schürrle. Götze's first goal was against Brazil in August 2011. He was in the squads for UEFA EURO 2012 and the 2014 World Cup, where Schürrle set him up in the 113th minute of the final to chest and hook in the only goal against Argentina.
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