He may not be around to see it but Joachim Löw says that while Germany's FIFA World Cup dreams have ended, "it is far from over" for a young side who exceeded expectations in South Africa.
Going into the finals injured captain Michael Ballack spoke for many when he suggested Germany were too weak and inexperienced to be considered among the favourites, lacking the consistency and strength in depth to mount a serious challenge. Four goals in knockout round victories over both England and Argentina tell a different story, even if Spain proved too strong in the semi-finals on Wednesday. "I looked at the players' faces in the dressing room after the game and there was such disappointment, but we weren't good enough tonight," said Löw. "Spain are a wonderful team: what more can I say?"
"It's so S-painful: The dream is over", cried German daily Bild this morning, adding the caveat that "in any case we will win the cup in four years". Indeed, Löw fielded the youngest starting XI to contest a last-four fixture for 48 years in Durban, the presence of four members of the victorious 2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship squad helping drag the average age down to 25 years and 299 days. It would have been lower but for the suspension of Thomas Müller, 20. The future, all agree, looks as bright as the lucky powder blue jumper sported by Löw throughout the tournament and which he will donate to charity at the weekend.
"I think we can definitely learn and take a lot from our experiences here," said Löw, whose own future remains unclear as his contract expires after Saturday's third-place play-off against Uruguay. "
We have a core, a nucleus, and their development has just started. The Spanish team have played together now for three years – whereas we've only really been together for six weeks. In the future we'll be able to contain such players and play with more freedom. Our team is capable of a lot more than they showed last night."
So, ultimately the grand savant got it right. Paul the psychic octopus maintained his 100% record of predicting Germany's results in South Africa having turned his back on his adopted homeland and plumped for Spain. But those who put faith in fate have cause for hope. Brazil and Italy – the only sides to win four World Cups – both completed the quartet 24 years after collecting No3. Apply that calculation to Germany and, adding 24 to 1990, it comes to 2014. Brazil, here they come.
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