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Rampant Germany take tiki-taka to ‘another level’ at World Cup Merkel to travel to Rio for final

PORTO SEGURO, Brazil, July 10, (Agencies): Germany have taken the “tiki-taka” passing game so intrinsically used by Spain to another level at the World Cup in Brazil, by adding ruthless efficiency to the possession philosophy. Germany are one win from capturing their World Cup fourth title following the astonishing 7-1 demolition of host Brazil in the semifinals. Spain beat Germany at two major tournaments and coach Joachim Loew was so impressed by the Spanish game that he has taken over many aspects and, of course, added some of his own flourishes.

 Germany likes possession, just as Spain did, but Loew’s team avoids endless wide passing and prefers to push forward at every occasion. When Germany win the ball in their half, Loew wants his players to pass it quickly forward, hoping to outnumber the opposing defense. The result is that Germany creates many chances and scores plenty of goals. Spain’s minimalists scored eight goals in winning the 2010 World Cup — Germany already have 17 here, with one match remaining to play.

Spain beat Germany in the final of the 2008 European Championship and again in the semifinals of the 2010 World Cup. But while Spain’s game was based on endless possession and passing until an occasional chance was created, Loew’s lineup is happy to attack and take risks. “We want possession but that is only one factor in our game,” Loew said earlier in the tournament. “We want to keep the ball low, we want to avoid long and high balls and we want quick transition. We need to improve our efficiency.” It worked perfectly against Brazil, as the historic result illustrates. It may help that six of Germany’s field players come from Bayern Munich, which has been coached by Pep Guardiola for one season.

Guardiola was the mastermind of “tiki-taka” and won 14 titles in four seasons in charge of Barcelona, including two Champions League crowns. Barcelona inspired Spain’s game that brought two European championships and a World Cup title. Loew also adopted the notion of a “false nine” system without a true striker, another idea borrowed from Spain. But when Germany had some trouble in earlier matches in the tournament in Brazil, Loew did not hesitate to revert to starting Miroslav Klose, the only true striker in his team.

Klose has scored two goals in Brazil and has become the top scorer in World Cup history when he netted against Brazil for his 16th goal in four tournaments. Germany’s talented midfielders rotate positions constantly, they are always on the move and any is capable of scoring. Thomas Mueller has been the most prolific with five goals so far, either playing as a winger with Klose in the lineup or as forward when Klose is on the bench. Sami Khedira and Toni Kroos shone against Brazil, with the latter scoring twice and playing a role in the first four German goals, while Khedira netted once in his best match of the tournament. But they are also not shy to defend.

 Germany have shown they can win even when it doesn’t have more possession — France had as much as Germany and lost 1-0 in the quarterfinals. Brazil had 51 percent, with the known outcome. Still, Germany top the tournament in completed passes at 3,421, nearly three times the average. Philipp Lahm with 458 passes and Kroos with 443 lead the tournament. Spain completed 4,773 passes in winning the 2010 title. Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is to travel to Brazil to watch the national team’s bid to win the World Cup for a fourth time, officials said on Wednesday, following its crushing 7-1 defeat of the host country’s squad in the semi-final.

President Joachim Gauck confirmed he would also join Merkel in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday for the tournament’s final match. Merkel, a keen soccer fan, watched every goal in Tuesday’s match against Brazil, her spokesperson said. German media have hailed the result as a sensation and a miracle. Germany will face either Argentina or the Netherlands, who play each other in the second semi-final on Wednesday. “I agree with world opinion that it was a very good game ... I think it almost deserves to be called historic,” said Merkel at a news conference in Berlin, adding that she wished the team “a lot of strength and concentration on the task at hand”.

The game, which saw Germany score five of its goals within just 18 sizzling minutes, broke a number of records. According to broadcaster ZDF, the game topped TV ratings with 32.57 million viewers — about 40 percent of the population, not taking into account large public viewings. On Twitter, 35.6 million tweets were posted during the match, making it the most tweeted sports game in the social media site’s history. Merkel attended Germany’s first match in the Cup against Portugal and cheered the team on to a 4-0 win.

Images of Merkel at the game went viral online, including one of her posing with shirtless German players in the team’s dressing room. Another image of Merkel, 59, with hands raised in the air, cheering on the team has become an Internet “meme”, with the chancellor photoshopped as Rio’s “Christ the Redeemer” statue. Merkel, Europe’s most powerful political leader, has also been a popular subject of “selfies” with players, including striker Lukas Podolski and midfielder Julian Draxler.

German football fans had mixed opinions about seeing their nation’s leader in such images online. “It’s a good PR strategy, I think a lot of people might like it,” said 33-year-old Berliner Christian Meyer. “She should do her job instead and not use footballers to improve her image.” In one 2006 newspaper interview, Merkel compared politicians to soccer players: “All I know is that you have to be fully fit at the right time. Then anything is possible. That holds true for football and politics.”

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