It was the final we were all hoping for, an exhilarating match-up between the oldest team in the competition and the youngest; a battle where physical intensity collided with technical perfection. South American tenacity meets European composure. Age, therefore, was never going to concern these powerhouses as throughout the tournament, Chile manager Juan Antonio Pizzi and German counterpart Joachim Low have implemented a far more important attribute: teamwork.
Germany, the almost-perfect machine with an average squad age of 24 years old and without a star player, has been the most impressive team in the tournament, most notably during its 4-1 domination of Mexico in the semifinal stage. This is a team that leaves nothing to chance.
"A lot of work has gone into our wins," said Low before Sunday's final. "We couldn't pre-empt reaching the final as some players had little experience and you couldn't calculate how they'd react."
Chile, the tournament king, who has won two in three years: 2015's Copa America and last year's Copa America Centenario, was always going to be the ultimate test. After all, this is the golden era for Chilean soccer.
"We have beaten Argentina and Portugal, the European champions," said Chile midfielder Arturo Vidal, prior to the final. "If we win on Sunday, we will prove we are the best team in the world."
But alas, Germany not only achieved an impressive 1-0 victory, it did it under immense physical and mental pressure. It's an incredible achievement.
Here are three takeaways from the final and Germany's performance in the Confederations Cup as a whole.
Aside from technical superiority, Germany has always been a mentally strong team. No matter what happens throughout the match or how well the opposition starts, the focus and composure remains. This is not something that just happens by coincidence, it's an attribute that can be seen from youth soccer to the under-21 team (which won the European Championship on Friday) and its considered a national priority in order to succeed.
On Sunday, Low knew that the best way to beat Chile was to make the South Americans think they were in control due to possession but this was only a facade, as Germany waited for Pizzi's men to make their own mistakes...and then, pounce.
The lack of possession was not something that interested Low, as he chose practicality over ideology.
Much like New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, Low analyzes the opposition's biggest weapon and looks how to erase it. In the case of Chile, that was pressure and possession, so Germany waited and perfected a counter-attacking plan by playing a deep midfield. By the end of the match, Chile's players were so tired that they had run out of ideas, while Germany remained composed.
The Julian Draxler Effect
The 23-year-old attacking midfielder, who plays for Paris Saint-Germain, was fantastic during this tournament, as his vision and delivery elevated his teammates' games. One of the best things about the way this young man plays is that his number one priority is to supply and create, and that's what makes him so dangerous. This was something that was seen throughout the tournament:
Despite his youth, Draxler has bags of experience, having made his international debut in 2012 This is where he is so valuable—a young German star with international know-how.
In a tournament that featured Arturo Vidal, Alexis Sanchez and Chicharito, it was Draxler who ended the Confederations Cup as Golden Ball winner. No arguments here.
The German Way
One of the biggest talking points during the tournament was the fact that this young German team was often identified as a ‘B team’ or a reserve unit. One must be careful with this assumption because Germany's system and the way it implements innovation and education with young players is so high that if anything, the country only knows how to create quality players.
There is no ‘B team,’ just an association that breeds A talent.
Germany will always produce quality, but what takes it to another level is how Low's 13-year project (he’s been a member of the national side since 2004) is a result of precise delivery—in training, game-day, off-days... it's all the same. Perform like a professional. Nothing else will matter.
If there is anything to take away from this, it's that star players, though important, are only but one piece of the final project. And this is why this is the greatest sport in the world, because in order to achieve victory, you need 11 players, not one.