DISCUSSING the World Cup with Liam Brady this week, he remarked that one of the notable things about the tournament had been a dearth of great central midfielders.
Italy have Andrea Pirlo, but Brazil and England lacked playmakers, while Argentina pack their central area with stoppers. Germany, by contrast, have not just one but three brilliant midfielders and it’s what makes them unquestionably the best team in town.
Major tournaments always throw up new systems and the one employed by Joachim Low is fascinating.
None of Toni Kroos, Bastian Schweinsteiger or Sami Khedira plays as a designated defensive midfielder. Instead, they rotate in a highly fluid trio, with the man nearest the back four taking up that role.
Mesut Ozil operates on the left, and behind him full-back Benedikt Howedes is sparing in his forward runs. Lahm, on the other flank, loves bombing on, and Thomas Muller ahead of him is happy to drift inside.
Not any team can play this way – you need bright, technical players – but when it works it means there are more options to receive the ball and therefore more chances created.
It’s not the only thing in Germany’s favour. They have looked better prepared than any other team out here in Brazil, and, probably as a result, they seem stronger and fitter than all of their rivals.
Confidence is also sky-high, following the 7-1 demolition of Brazil. As poor as the hosts were, it was impressive how Germany saw they were vulnerable and went for the kill. Some of the goals they scored were like 5-a-side efforts, passed into the net.
Now, I love Lionel Messi, so I’d be very happy to see Argentina lift the trophy on Sunday after he has delivered a virtuoso display. In their favour, sometimes it’s easier to be underdogs, and if they get ahead they will defend well.
But I don’t want to see Argentina win with a header from a set-piece. I’d rather Germany got the triumph they deserve, and they look to me like they’re getting better all the time, so I strongly suspect they will.
VAN GAAL THE OUT-FOXER
Holland may be out but they’ve given us a glimpse of what Manchester United can expect under coach Louis van Gaal next season. He has so much experience, personality and sheer presence that he is sure to give them a great lift. But he’s not just about man-management, he’s about out-foxing opponents. I’m desperate to see how he uses Wayne Rooney, and I think we can expect intriguing tactical adjustments for matches against title rivals.
Trevor Steven is a former England international who has played at two World Cups and two European Championships. He now works as a media commentator.