Mertesacker hails foundations

Congleton Guardian: Per Mertesacker has traced Germany's success back to 2009 Per Mertesacker has traced Germany's success back to 2009

The roots of Germany's annihilation of Brazil can be traced back to a resounding Under-21 victory over England five years ago, according to Per Mertesacker.

Germany produced one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history on Tuesday night when they obliterated Brazil 7-1 in Belo Horizonte.

A quick glance at the team sheet shows the performance has been a long time in the making.

Shortly after the embarrassing group stage exit at Euro 2000, the German Football Association initiated a root and branch reform of its youth development.

The Germans had to be patient, but their reforms paid off in 2009 when the Under-21 side won the European Championships in Sweden, sweeping England aside 4-0 in the final.

Six of the XI that played that night in Malmo also participated in the drubbing of Brazil on Tuesday evening.

"It started off in 2009 when we won the Under-21 tournament and beat England 4-0. I think there's a small link between these two tournaments," Germany defender Mertesacker said.

"The 2009 tournament was a real turning point. The youth academies started developing well over the last five or six years."

The sextet of stars who played in Malmo that night - Manuel Neuer, Benedikt Howedes, Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil - now have 270 senior caps between them.

They are supremely talented individuals, but they are also team players. Team unity, harnessed by coach Joachim Low, has been key to Germany's success at this World Cup.

"We have one of the strongest squads I've ever played in," said Mertesacker, who won his first cap 10 years ago under Low's predecessor Jurgen Klinsmann.

"We have two excellent players for every position and everyone believes in each other.

"We have created excellent team spirit during the tournament and with those magnificent players growing up together it makes it easier."

Mertesacker hopes Tuesday's semi-final win will not be the peak for this Germany team. He wants to lift the biggest trophy in world football on Sunday in the Maracana.

But for now he is more than happy to reflect on the most impressive Germany win for many a year.

"It's the best result of my career when you consider the importance of the game. I could not believe it," said the Arsenal defender, who came off the bench at half-time.

"It was crazy to watch us score five goals so early.

"Everything went so fluently. We played through their lines, found always a player who was completely free in front of the goal.

"We showed some great skills, some great passing moves. It was nice to watch."

So comprehensive was the win that Mertesacker was almost apologetic towards the dejected Brazilians.

"I feel sorry for them," the 29-year-old said.

"I experienced that when I played with Germany in 2006; we got knocked out by Italy in the semi final.

"The expectations are big here in Brazil and to carry those is not easy.

"You could see that and we took advantage of it because there was a bit too much pressure on them and I feel sorry for everyone."

The player Mertesacker replaced, Mats Hummels, thinks it is important for Germany to remember they still have to win one more watch to lift the trophy.

"The Brazil game does not have any impact on the final on Sunday because it will be a totally different game," the Borussia Dortmund defender said.

"It was nice how it went against Brazil, but it will be no problem keeping our feet on the ground."

Andre Schurrle scored the pick of the goals - a tight half-volley that flew past Julio Cesar and in off the underside of the bar.

Schurrle enjoyed the win, but he will not be reminding Oscar and Willian of the result when they meet up for pre-season training at Chelsea.

"I don't think you can joke about it," the Blues forward said.

"It's hard for them, for sure. They played a fantastic tournament with the emotions.

"They gave everything. You could see it in every game. I just said to them after the match that they have to keep their heads up. They played fantastic. I will see them in pre-season."

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