Everyone wanted the FA to build its own version of Clairefontaine when France won the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship and they had a consistent production line of young talent. Now the talk is of copying the coaching system that produced the young Germany team that has excelled in South Africa.

The debate is cyclical but what is constant is Germany's ability as a tournament team. For a good starting point as to why they are doing so well in this tournament look at how many members of the Germany squad play in the Bundesliga and the percentage of Bundesliga players who are German.

The entire 23-man squad played its football in Germany last season. The entire England squad played in England but the foreign influence here is much greater.

I've no doubt Joachim Loew's team are benefiting from thorough planning and a clear strategy, but that is not exclusive to Germany. All the clubs here have that too.

Like many teams before them at international and club level though, Germany are prospering from having a good crop of players of a similar age, who have the experience of playing together, coming through at the same time. They have a young squad who have delivered really athletic performances throughout the tournament.

Portugal prospered when they had the likes of Luis Figo and Rui Costa coming through at the same time. They won the Under-20 World Cup together and developed into a top international side. Manchester United had that too when Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, David Beckham, and Gary and Phil Neville came through the ranks together.

When I took the Ireland job there was a fantastic group of young players coming out of the Under-21s.

There was Robbie Keane, Ian Harte, Damien Duff and Shay Given and I nicked them all off my Under-21s coach, Ian Evans, and promoted them to the senior side.

Sometimes the energy and enthusiasm of a squad can wane but they improved that instantly. You had experienced pros like Niall Quinn loving playing with these young players and the young players relishing playing with the older group they had always looked up to. There are good players in the England Under-21s and the focus is now on whether it is time to shift them up a level.

Interesting

It was interesting to hear Lothar Mattheaus say this German team are better without Michael Ballack as he would have slowed their play down. No one said that before the tournament and if Germany had struggled you can guarantee they'd have said it was because the team lacked an experienced head who could put his foot on the ball. But their movement has been fantastic at this World Cup.

The first time I watched Germany was in their 1-0 defeat to Serbia when, with 10 men after the harsh dismissal of Miroslav Klose, they still should have won. They started with Klose up front, Mesut Ozil behind him, Sami Khedira on one side and Thomas Mueller on the other, and they were brilliant. Khedira and Ozil swapped positions so many times and Bastian Schweinsteiger sat in there as the pivot for the whole team. Everybody could find him, whether they were playing from the back or the front or square, and he kept passing it and was always available.

They attack as an organised unit through Lukas Podolski, Klose, Ozil, Mueller and Khedira, with Schweinsteiger just sat. At times it was almost like they had five men in attack and five defending, and if the attack builds up the full-backs will also get forward to assist. They are solid in defence, well-drilled, have a good shape and, as they showed against England and Argentina, they are ruthless in punishing an opponent's mistake.

England lost the ball on the edge of Germany's box and seconds later it was in the back of their net. But breaking down a team is one thing; putting it in the net is another matter and Germany have been absolutely clinical in recent matches.

Their fourth goal against England, when Ozil waited for Ashley Cole to commit himself to making the block before putting it through his legs for Mueller to score, was a fabulous piece of play.

I tipped Spain to win the World Cup but their style could be perfect for Germany to exploit.

Both the Spanish full-backs like to get forward and if Spain make an error on the edge of Germany's box, like having a cross blocked, they would have only their sitting midfielder and two centre-backs of their outfield players to deal with the counter-attack.

Spain are a fantastic side but it is not unusual to see them with seven outfield players up with the ball and they could all be out of it with one misplaced pass. — © Guardian News and Media 2010

Keywords: 2010 World Cup

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