Germany shakes off inferiority complex to Spain
German efficiency is beating Spanish flair again in football.
Having seen Barcelona emerge as the dominant team in Europe and Spain's national team deny Germany twice on the international stage, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund are helping the country shake off its recent inferiority complex.
After emphatically dispatching Barcelona and Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinals, the two Bundesliga teams will face off in Europe's showpiece at Wembley Stadium on May 25 in the first all-German final.
''I'm happy. Because one thing is certain: Germany wins,'' Chancellor Angela Merkel wrote on her Facebook page.
And that in the Bundesliga's 50th year.
''It's a dream for the whole land,'' said Dortmund midfielder Ilkay Gundogan.
The country's self-belief is back and losses to Spain - in the 2008 European Championship final and 2010 World Cup semifinals - now seem like a distant memory.
''It's the result of a continuing, consequent process, which began at the start of 2000 with the youth development,'' said Bayern's sporting director Mattias Sammer.
While Dortmund beat Madrid 4-1 at home before holding on for a 4-3 aggregate victory, it was the manner of Bayern's demolition of Barcelona in particular that has led some to suggest a shift in power between the countries.
''Altogether (Dortmund and Bayern) were very dominant in their international games, above all displaying football of the most modern kind,'' said Germany coach Joachim Loew.
Bayern's 7-0 aggregate win over Barcelona was the biggest in a Champions League semifinal and certainly appears to herald something more significant.
Barcelona was long considered a role model by Bayern - so much so that the club signed former Barca coach Pep Guardiola to take over next season.
Under his tutelage, Barcelona won 14 out of 19 possible titles over four years, including two Champions League crowns.
Bayern, which has reached its third final in four years, expects Guardiola to establish the club as Europe's dominant force.
''We continue to respect Barcelona. But we've become better, and we wanted to prove it,'' Sammer said.
While Dortmund was hanging on at the end in Madrid on Tuesday, Juergen Klopp's side had chances to decide the outcome earlier, with Robert Lewandowski going close and striking the crossbar.
But the groundwork had been laid in the 4-1 win at home the week before, when Dortmund simply overran Jose Mourinho's side and could well have scored even more goals.
''These are extraordinary moments that we're privileged to experience now. We know to appreciate it,'' Klopp said.
Despite Bayern and Dortmund's achievements, however, the rest of the Bundesliga has some way to catch up before Germany can be declared the dominant force in club football.
Schalke crashed out to Galatasaray in the Round of 16 of the Champions League, Borussia Moenchengladbach didn't even qualify past Dynamo Kiev, while no German team even made it as far as the Europa League quarterfinals.
And despite the role of youth development and admirable fan incentives, money will remain the decisive factor when it comes to determining long-term success.
Dortmund's performances this season - and last year, when it defended its Bundesliga title and claimed the double at Bayern's expense - have led to bigger clubs circling for star players.
Bayern has already lured Mario Goetze away for next season and Lewandowski has reportedly agreed to follow suit, either this summer or next, in a clear indication of the Bavarian club's financial might.
Dortmund has learned the lessons from near bankruptcy in 2005 and made a modest profit of ?6.65 million from player transfers last year.
But Bayern spent ?70.3 million last summer and had no qualms about paying Goetze's buy-out clause of ?37 million to take him from its greatest rival.
Jupp Heynckes' side is currently 20 points clear of Dortmund, and had already broken the Bundesliga's points record, with many more records in sight. Having lost in the Champions League final in two of the past three years - including in its home stadium last season - it is now the favorite to win its first European Cup since 2001.
So rather than a period of German domination, this could well turn out to be simply the beginning of Bayern's age of domination.