When German coach Joachim Low talks about his German team he keeps repeating the same words. Speed. Ambition. Discipline.
Well, here are a few more. How about fluid, fabulous, intelligent and heartwarming, full of wit and wonder? Granted, not words you immediately associate with the Germans. Yet there is no doubt about it. Low's 2010 FIFA World Cup™ side are the sexiest thing to come out of Germany since Claudia Schiffer became the supermodel face of Chanel.
And the most remarkable thing of all is that they have come almost entirely unannounced. From left field. Yes, they qualified by winning eight and drawing two of their matches from a group which included Russia and the dubious might of Finland, Wales, Azerbaijan and Liechtenstein.
But there was no suggestion that here was a team which was on the cusp of pushing back the boundaries of modern football. Yet that is precisely what Germany could do at South Africa 2010 with a team of players, some of whom might not have raised a flicker of recognition if you had stood on the corner of Munich's Sendlingerstrasse and asked the endless stream of shoppers who they were.
That is Low's triumph. Taking over an all-star team and leading them to high places like Spain's Vicente del Bosque is one thing. Building one from scratch and daring to fill it with enterprising youth is quite another. Against England, Germany scored four and it was dynamic, but much of that was put down to the dreadful performance of Fabio Capello's disjointed and apparently disaffected side.
Against Argentina, the Germans took apart a side of world-class individuals, many of whom like Lionel Messi were at their peak. How did they do it? Not by matching Argentina for flair. This German side's exhilaration does not come from fancy flicks and tricky dribbling.
It comes from the vision of 21-year-old Mesut Ozil in midfield, the energy of 20-year-old Thomas Muller, the guile of Bastian Schweinsteiger and the willingness of players such as Miroslav Klose at 32 to do the hard yards demanded of a striker in closing down the opposition. In other words, Germany attack and defend as a team. They are as near to a complete and balanced collective unit as we have seen at a FIFA World Cup in years.
England and Capello should take note of how it has been achieved, although a cautionary note is that there is still Spain to negotiate in a third successive semi-final for Germany before we can contemplate a stunning ending to what is a compelling story. Capello has committed himself to revamping England with fresh, young players. It is just what Low, paid a third of Capello's £6million-a-year salary by the way, did two years ago.
The difference is that Germany have almost 400 academies across the country nurturing promising footballers in the age range of 11-15. England have closer to four. Low had a ready-made talent pool in which to fish and in eulogising about his team's performance he was happy to explain how it came about after Germany had lost 1-0 to Spain, coincidentally Wednesday's opponents, in the UEFA EURO 2008 final.
"My team are fearless," he said. "They are not disrespectful, but they know they can play excellent football at speed. We wanted to bring younger players in after Euro 2008. Sometimes we brought in players and in some matches failed to win. That is a risk you have to take. You have to experiment. I fielded five or six young players in some matches. That is a risk I am prepared to take."
Would Capello get away with such a risk if England plunged to a string of defeats in friendlies while blooding copious youngsters? It is unlikely, but it is a lesson England, the Football Association, the fans, the media, must learn if England are to break their cycle of underachievement.
In the meantime, let us lie back and think of Germany, a football team whose artistry has brought wonder and joy to South Africa 2010.