“If you haven’t bet on Germany to win the 2014 World Cup, what are you waiting for?”
Those were my words back in April 2013. I told members and non members alike that I fancied Germany to lift the World Cup in Brazil as long ago as February 2013. That is when I placed my own bet on them at generous odds of 12/1. I suggested others may wish to consider doing the same, and some of you did just that.
I have been asked why I fancied Germany. After all, I was forever being told that not only had a European side never won a World Cup staged in South America, but that one could not. I thought the last assertion, made by many people, was poppycock. The best team can win if you stage the World Cup on the moon.
I had liked the look of the new Germany since the European Championships of 2008. That’s when they lost the final to Spain by the only goal of the game. The German side let themselves down once or twice since, but it was clear to me that football in that country was going in the right direction. You could see their was a plan and they stuck to it.
I looked into my crystal ball and realised that the better players available to the manager would be maturing nicely come 2014 and that they had younger stars coming through who, come the time of the tournament being staged in Brazil, would be fresh and in their early twenties.
The average age of the Germany side that lifted the World Cup last Sunday was 26. A perfect age. They still had available to them the goals of Miroslav Klose, the man who has scored more World Cup goals of any footballer. They also had the threat of Thomas Muller up front.
But for me they possessed a man who could make a difference. A man who, when the going gets tough, gets going. Many good footballers did not do their skills justice at the World Cup. Some hid.
But Bastian Schweinsteiger did. His talent has matured like a fine wine. He has become stronger and more industrious with each competition he has played in. I first noticed him in 2008. I revelled in his performance last Sunday.
That Bastian Schweinsteiger was the star performer in the final pleased me. For six years I’ve been saying he is one of the very best midfield players in the world.
He hasn’t always lived up to the billing. Even at this World Cup he had a game or two in which he will not have been happy with his contribution.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. And Bastian Schweinsteiger was the rock on which Germany built a winning performance in the final against Argentina.
I fancied Germany to win this World Cup because they had ability in abundance. I fancied them because I thought their squad would be the perfect mix when it came to age. I fancied them not just because they had Schweinsteiger. But because they had that most important ingredient. In Manuel Neuer, Germany boasts one of the most unflappable goalkeepers playing anywhere.
I also fancied them because they had what so many other countries did not. Germany won the World Cup through teamwork.
It’s almost an old fashioned concept. In this era when so much of our attention is focussed on fabulous players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar, too many football fans and pundits forget that one man cannot win a World Cup.
You need eleven men on the pitch pulling in the same direction. Putting in the same effort. If one is having a bad game (and Mesut Ozil had a few of those) then his colleagues cover for him, encourage him and try to raise his confidence.
Team spirit is every bit as important as individual ability. More so, I would argue.
But it was a goal Germany conceded that said all you needed to know about why Germany won.
Already leading Brazil by a cricket score in the semi-final, Mesut Ozil took on their ‘keeper and fluffed his lines. The play went straight up the other end and Brazil scored their consolation goal. Germany would win by the score of 7-1. Enough for most teams.
But did you see the look on the face of their goalkeeper when Brazil scored? Or the expression of annoyance and disappointment on the faces of several other players in the German side. They wanted to win to nil. Conceding a consolation goal rankled with the German players.
Now that’s when I knew they would win the final. For while Argentina had some talented individual players in their collection, they were never a collective.
On the betting front, Germany won me some very good returns. It was my best and biggest ante-post win ever.
My followers on Twitter and some members of VG TIPS followed me in. They were prepared to wait almost 18 months for their returns.
As I am always saying, patience is the best friend a punter can have. Placing a bet in February 2013 to collect in July of 2014 is the perfect example of that.
The best team won the 2014 World Cup. A fitting finale to the best World Cup since 1970 (though not its equal). That’s all we football fans, and profitable punters, could hope for.