Book review: Das Reboot

Any time a country wins a World Cup the trendy thing is to copy things that country and federation did in order to win.

When Brazil wins it's a focus on playing more street soccer. When Spain won everyone had to try tiki-taka and play more possession style soccer.

When Germany won in 2014? Well, there's a book for that.

Das Reboot by Raphael Honigstein focuses on how the Germans won the 2014 World Cup in two main ways: the development and evolution of the federation and the youth system in Germany and how the team itself got through that month in Brazil.

The book features some interesting anecdotes, starting with a nasty car crash that came during a promotional race between German Formula 1 drivers Nico Rosberg and Pascal Wehrlein with German soccer players in the cars as well.

From an American perspective it's a bit surreal to see Jurgen Klinsmann applauded for his part in the evolution of the German national team after he was fired from the U.S. national team coaching job in November. The book highlights the transition from the era before Jurgen Klinsmann and his heir apparent, Joachim Low, took over.

Klinsmann didn't see the German national team through to its 2014 success, he was coaching the Americans in that World Cup, but he planted some of the seeds that led to Low getting the glory.

Some of the Klinsmann mentions are pretty juicy and will give a laugh to anyone who followed the Klinsmann era with the U.S.

For example, midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger: "Unfortunately, Klinsi had this idea that I should play as a left-back. I could pass the ball well, I could cross it, but I wasn't a defender." "In the long run, you can't disguise your weaknesses at that level."

There's a lot of backstory on the key characters. Have Wikipedia and Google handy for a clearer picture of who everyone is, but for the most part everything is straightforward.

Hongstein looks at all the things that changed in the way Germany ran things. How the clubs interacted with the federation, how coaching and more specifically youth coaching was viewed and how youth players were scouted and developed were at the top of the list.

There's an in-depth section about how the Germans revamped the country's youth system. While much of the book focuses on the 2014 World Cup triumph, this part is the real story. The Germans thought to overhaul the youth system, both at the federation and club level, and it took about 15 years to see the fruits of their labor.

In the American sense this shows both how important a well-oiled academy system is for the national team and also that it requires patience to see significant results. While the American system needs continued refinement and investment before we can see results like what the Germans saw, it shows why you do it.

A couple lines from this chapter stand out. Christian Seifert, CEO of the German Football League and vice president of the German FA: "I wonder what the Bundesliga would do if it had as much money as the Premier League." "Would we still be world champions or try to have a global All-Star league instead?"

Honigstein makes the point that, "The inference from Seifert's question is that (relative) shortage of money breeds innovation, whereas excess wealth breeds complacency."

The way the Germans had to think about the game and change how they thought about the game and the players is what makes the book worth reading.

Plus there's also the story of the infamous 7-1 semifinal win against host Brazil: "The opener bore the hallmarks of a routine training ground move but (defender Mats) Hummels later admitted it hadn't been: it was impossible to anticipate the woefulness of Brazil's defending and therefore pointless practising a ploy that relied on so much disorganization and mindlessness in the opposition box - in a World Cup semifinal."

For Chicago Fire fans there are a few mentions of Bastian Schweinsteiger. Schweinsteiger was a key cog in that 2014 team, although his role in the book is minor. There are a couple anecdotes about him and some of his backstory.

Next up: Sounders FC: Authentic Masterpiece: The Inside Story Of The Best Franchise Launch In American Sports History

Filed under: Soccer books

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