By the end of the month, the decision of Joachim Löw to get a look at his secondary options turned out to be one of the unlikeliest master-strokes of international coaching.
"It's heavier than the World Cup," he said afterwards. "This team – and this victory – will go down in history. The team absolutely deserved it.”
Instead of spinning the Confederations Cup into mayhem by omitting his regular players, the opposite happened. As each match passed, more and more people tuned into see how far the odds-and-ends collection of Germany would fare.
Now Löw has the joyous task of sifting through what are effectively two teams capable of going all the way at next year’s World Cup. We haven’t seen this kind of depth in a long time. Perhaps ever.
It’s hard to see Germany going back to Russia without the likes of Timo Werner and Lars Stindl, but where do the attackers sit in relation to Thomas Müller, Marco Reus, Mario Gómez, André Schürrle, Kevin Volland and Mesut Özil? Are we writing off Mario Götze already?
Room has to be made for Leon Goretzka – and probably in the starting side. He was so good in Russia that it’s worth pondering whether he, Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira can play together. İlkay Gündoğan will be hoping his recovery from a knee injury is much faster than usual.
Most of the players already entrenched in the senior squad – principally Joshua Kimmich, Julian Draxler and Jonas Hector – only enhanced their claims. Not much went wrong for anyone.
Add this monumental victory to another significant triumph – last week’s victory in the under-21 European Championships – and it’s fair to say that German football is looking good for at least another decade. Max Meyer, Maximilian Arnold, Davie Selke, Serge Gnabry and Yannick Gerhardt are already knocking on the door of the senior team.
But while we in Australia are waiting for our next “Golden Generation”, what Germany has proven is that you don’t have to sit around waiting and hoping. You have to go out there and create it yourself.
It’s too easy – and just lazy – to say that we should just copy and paste the German model. Besides, every country needs to formulate a structure that suits their nation and maximises their potential.
But the facts are that Germany no longer produces players of class on a whim. They have systematically cracked the code of development, to such a degree that excellent young players – both technically excellent and tactically proficient – are emerging every single year.
Pleasingly, our Memorandum of Understanding with the German Football Association (DFB) was extended in Sochi last week, with the two nations committed to sharing ideas about “coaching, grassroots football, marketing and media”.
If we want to make the most of this relationship, the timing couldn’t be better. We should be aiming to soak up every morsel of information we get – especially about coaching and grassroots football.
Some may say Germany’s culture is hard to replicate, but I’m not so sure. Australia has a feverish sporting mentality and football has a participation base that dwarfs all other codes domestically. So it’s not a question of that.
What Germany has is development knowledge. The know-how of how to turn a good player into a great player. How to take the rough edges off a junior prospect and make him completely proficient by the time he’s ready for the first team. In Australia, we talk about doing the same with players aged 22 or 23. Too late.
We need to do more to spread the pool of knowledge; it can’t just be concentrated in around our few elite junior coaches. Heaven forbid you grow up outside a major city. In Germany, being from the countryside is no problem, because odds are there’s going to be a fine coach in the local town, a fantastic one in the nearest regional city and a brilliant one in the nearest big city.
One might argue we probably have such a reality in cricket, as New Zealanders do in rugby, where the accumulated knowledge of generations trickles like a stream that never stops. There’s a universal culture of teaching not only how to play the sport but how to do it as efficiently and effectively as possible.
It’s why the technical players we do produce are hailed as exceptional, when in a country like Croatia, Argentina, the Netherlands or even Japan, it wouldn’t even be a question. You just can’t be an elite professional there without the basic skills to play the game.
I don’t mean to deride our junior coaches – quite the opposite. Many are just volunteers, doing their best, not knowing much better. But it's worth asking if we’ve done all we can to equip them with what they need to develop our next generation of Stindls, Werners and Goretzkas.