In the first leg of the champions league semi-final ties, Germany certainly came out on top, winning 8-1 overall. Germans overpowering? Or Spanish withering? Those concluding it is the end of the Barcelona era are certainly making too hasty a judgement. Borussia Dortmund have taken 7 points off Madrid across 3 games this season, which although is an incredible return, does not provide definitive conclusions. It would be like saying QPR have taken 4 points off Chelsea this season and are therefore better; it would be as foolish as deciding that English teams are no longer a force in Europe. England have been represented in 4 of the past 5 finals.
Although it has been a prospect for the past few years, the past few days has confirmed German football as the growing force, which others will need to keep pace with, but once this becomes the benchmark, teams will approach them differently next season. Despite the claims from Mourinho that Madrid did not prepare for the game, they unquestionably approached the game with an arrogant attitude, underestimating Dortmund. The early strike from Lewandoswki, who went on to terrorise Madrid with 3 more goals, was big shock to the system, from which they never really recovered. Every misjudged pass was met with a sigh from disgruntled fans, every mis-hit shot from Ronaldo was met with a frustrated cry. The mind-set is a powerful thing in football, Arsenal beat Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena, because they went there with a nothing-to-lose attitude and Bayern couldn’t help but think the tie was won, does this mean Arsenal are better than Barcelona? Of course not.
Barcelona’s domination of Europe, seemed to filter into Spain’s domination of the international scene. With Puyol, Pique, Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas and Pedro playing week in week out together, when they joined up to form the core of the international team, there was no confusion amongst playing styles and consequently they went on to effortlessly win the Euros. So with the rise of Bayern Munich where Neuer, Lahm, Badstuber, Schweinsteiger, Kroos, Muller and Gomez (and Götze next eason), all play together, the form of the German national team in the World Cup next year seems ominous.
One thing which Spanish and German teams hold superior over English teams is a natural confidence in their ability. Manchester United are one of the most respected and feared clubs in world football, but once they went 1-0 up in the first leg, something changed. They started to over-think the fact they were winning and lost their fluidity. Consequently they lost the overall tie, albeit with some controversy along the way. As Munich scored on Tuesday, they only continued to power on, as Dortmund gifted Madrid the equaliser, they didn’t doubt themselves, instead resumed their role as the dominant force in the game.
For the shift in power to move to the Germans, this would need to continue for a couple more seasons as Barcelona have done through making the semi-final or final for the past six years. For now though, let’s see if Madrid can do the unlikely and Barcelona can do the impossible.