In an article for Bloomberg Businessweek, contributor Brendan Greeley points out that Germany’s 7-1 thrashing of Brazil in the World Cup semifinal is 14 years in the making. Following Germany’s embarrassing first-round exit at the Euro 2000 championship in the Netherlands and Belgium, the German soccer federation (DFB) launched a concerted effort to find, nurture and develop the country’s soccer talent. The result, Greeley says, is what you saw against Brazil on Tuesday.
The idea was to train young talent and get it attached to a professional team early. To a certain extent, all countries do this, Greeley says: Belgium and certain clubs in Spain are noted for doing this quite well, but you could argue that after Tuesday, nobody does it better than the Germans.
What stands out about the German program is that the DFB centralizes the process of finding and developing the talent, and then farming it out to professional teams. The program starts teaching the same skills to 6-year-olds all over the country by coaches licensed by the DFB. By the age of 8, scouts are watching for kids good enough to enter their club programs, which are a sort of soccer high school. From there, they become professional players.
Germany also spends considerable sums on youth development: between 2002 and 2010 the amount spent on youth development doubled to 85 million euros ($116 million). The result has been players like Thomas Muller (24), Toni Kroos (24), Andre Schurrle (23), Mesut Ozil (25) and Mats Hummels (25), all of whom featured in Tuesday’s 7-1 rout.