When Sami Khedira and his Under-21 team‑mates held aloft the European Championship trophy last summer, after humbling England 4–0 in the final, they dreamed of changing the face of German football. Little did they know that their opportunity would come so quickly.
After Euro 2008, Joachim Löw, the Germany manager, accepted the need to "rejuvenate" a squad that had become too heavily seasoned in parts. He has done so in spectacular fashion. Germany have only nine survivors from that tournament here. (It is worth remembering that they were runners-up in Austria and Switzerland.) And once Löw had done with filleting his squad, the players he turned to were almost all from the next generation.
Khedira, the U-21 captain during that heady campaign in Sweden, and five of his team‑mates, including Mesut Ozil, who had orchestrated the destruction of Stuart Pearce's England, were given the call and so were four other youngsters who were eligible for the U-21 finals. Two of those, Thomas Müller and Holger Badstuber, were not selected for Sweden simply because they had not yet emerged from Bayern Munich's reserves. Their progress over this past season has been startling.