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Euro 2008: Germany Squeaks By Turkey

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The mark of a great team is one that can get outplayed and still prevail. Today, Germany was obliterated in the first half by what amounted to a Turkish B-side but still managed to stand firm. "All" they needed was a goal in the final minute of play to put away a massively resilient Turkish squad. Some could argue that Turkey deserved a better fate.

Nonetheless, the result is Germany is through to the final for the sixth time in its history but some may lament its path was far from dominant.

Not that it matters. The point is to win. Very few teams in history have dominated tournaments. The outstanding French team led by Michel Platini’s nine goals in five games in 1984 (arguably the greatest tournament ever) immediately comes to mind for me.

The Soviet Union went undefeated in the inaugural tournament in 1960 but Yugoslavia’s brilliance essentially eliminated the word “dominant” from the Soviet performance. Other than that, the tournament is free of any walkovers.

The World Cup had some undefeated performances, too. Italy 1938, Uruguay 1950, Brazil 1970 and 2002, France 1998 are some examples. Alas, we’re here to talk about the Euro — which takes us back to Germany.

When we think German soccer we think about superior tacticians and clinical efficiency on the pitch. We further think about players like Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Gerd Muller, and Franz “The Kaiser” Beckenbauer.

Contrary to popular belief, Germany hasn’t always dominated tournaments. They were capable of over-achieving at major tournaments as well. For example, at the 1954 World Cup, they had no business beating the greatest side in world soccer at the time, Hungary. Nor were they expected champions in 1974 when they overcame another powerful side in the Netherlands.

However, at the European Championships in 1972 it was a different story. There was no mistaken who was boss on the pitch. That year, the nationalmannschaft put on a display of soccer of such dominance – and flair – that it’s often regarded as the greatest German side ever.

[Writer's intrusion: Why am I getting flashbacks to SCTV's Das Boots?]

This team is perhaps overlooked because it didn’t take place at the World Cup, but no country ever over ran a tournament like Germany did at the EC that summer. It all culminated into a 3-0 drubbing of a solid Soviet Union side in the final match. Two years later the Germans won an improbable World Cup.

Aside from that goal-machine Gerd Muller, one player who stood out in particular was Borussia Monchengladbach’s (a name I wouldn't dare pronounce in public sober) great midfielder Gunter Netzer. No doubt one of history’s most prolific midfielders, Netzer was a wicked play-maker who marshaled the pitch with a stunning grace. Along with the aforementioned legends the Kaiser, Muller (who scored 11 goals to lead the tournament) and Paul Breitner, no one could match German flair mixed in with masterful technical skill. The mixture was much too lethal for any opponent.

The 2008 German edition may not approach the memorable side from 1972 but, like the repetitive rhythms of Kraftwerk, the melody of German soccer remains constant.

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About Alessandro Nicolo