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Mueller's heroics are typical of new 'Young Germany'

The German squad that beat England to progress to the quarterfinals is the youngest ever with an average age of 25. But the Nationalelf won the match 4-1 because of, and not despite its youth.

Germany's Thomas Mueller celebrates

Mueller, the man of the match, is 20 years old

The turning point in the Germany-England match came in minute 67. Having narrowly preserved a 2-1 advantage, thanks to a terrible call on a goal not given to England, Germany had their backs against the wall. The Three Lions were pressing, and the Nationalelf were happy just to get the ball out of their own half.

Then Thomas Mueller stepped up.

After sparking a counterattack and getting the ball back from Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mueller decided to have a go at goal and banged the ball in off England keeper David James' elbow.

Three minutes later, Mueller slotted home a fine pass from Mesut Oezil, and the Lions' will was broken.

Add together Mueller and Oezil's ages, and you'll come up with 41. In comparison, James turns 40 this August.

Ahead of the World Cup, there was speculation that Germany's youth might put their chances at risk. After the England match, it seems one main reason Germany have gotten this far is a preponderance of young talent.

Germany head coach Joachim Loew, left, congratulates Germany's Thomas Mueller

Mueller earned his high-five from Loew

Keeping cool

Before the match, many English fans had probably never heard of Mueller, but his breakout did not come out of the blue.

In his first full season as a professional for his club Bayern Munich, Mueller scored 13 goals in the Bundesliga. And he played in the Champions League final, which Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney all watched on TV.

"When you think about what you'll do in promising situations before the match, you can't be getting nervous," the 20-year-old, who also picked up an assist on Germany's second goal, told German television after the match.

His coach was full of praise.

"I've rarely seen him blow a chance," Joachim Loew said. "In front of goal, he's just cold as ice."

Germany's Mesut Oezil, front, fires a shot

Oezil has become the boss in offensive midfield

And he's not the only young player who has been performing for Germany. Twenty-one-year-old Oezil has become the focal point in attack for the Nationalelf and has attracted the attention of Europe's larger clubs.

Sami Khedira, 23, hasn't shone as brightly, but he has plugged part of the hole left by the injury to former captain Michael Ballack. Jerome Boateng and Holger Badstuber, both 21, have also proved capable role players on a footballing stage usually occupied by veterans.

And what has to be frightening to opponents - in the future, if not necessarily in this World Cup - is the fact that German mainstays Schweinsteiger, Lukas Podolski and Phillip Lahm are themselves only 25, 25 and 26 respectively.

Still lots to learn

The match against England, as almost anyone would admit, was not as one-sided as the scoreline might suggest. As the first half wore on, a mistake by 24-year-old goalkeeper Manuel Neuer gifted England a chance at a comeback.

And had the linesman seen a shot by Frank Lampard as over the line, which it clearly was, the game would have been tied at 2-all, and the outcome might have been different.

Germany foundered for the middle half of the match. The impressive thing was that they managed to keep their heads and recover.

Neuer - one of Europe's most highly rated young keepers - held his nerves in the second half, and his offensive colleagues kept attacking.

"It was good to be under such pressure against Ghana in the group stage," Loew said. "I think we learned a lot from that, and we were able to press forward against England with confidence. I was impressed."

Müller, Jerome Boateng, and Sami Khedira

The future looks very, very bright

Change of the guard

It will be interesting to see whether Young Germany also impress, if they have to face one of the top sides in the tournament. Such an opponent, Argentina, is lurking in the quarterfinals.

But one thing is clear: this is a radically different German national team, with a different cast of characters, to its immediate predecessors.

A poignant moment came after the match when Ballack was asked to rate the performance of Mueller, who has worn the number 13, traditionally Ballack's, throughout the World Cup.

Ballack praised Germany's win and uttered the usual promises injured veterans make about coming back for another shot at glory on the international stage.

But he had to have known that the players who beat England are not going to relinquish their spots in the squad voluntarily. Whether Ballack ever dons the 13 again for Germany is an open question.

Against England, Germany didn't need him to.

Author: Jefferson Chase
Editor: Sonia Phalnikar

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