Nate Silver crunches the numbers and argues that this year's German World Cup winning squad may in fact be the most powerful and dominant national soccer team ever assembled.
One simple way to compare World Cup winners is by their goal differential throughout the tournament. Germany, with 18 goals scored and four allowed, comes out at a plus-14. This is tied for the best goal differential ever for a World Cup champion; Brazil also scored 18 goals and allowed four in winning the 2002 tournament.
Plus 14 through 7 matches is insane, although if you toss that 7-1 thrashing of Brazil and turn that into 2-1, that would put the Germans at a much more average plus 9. So what else is in the 2014 German team's favor?
The World Football Elo Ratings provide one way to account for all these factors: a team’s strength going into the tournament, its dominance during the tournament itself, the quality of its competition, and whether it was aided by playing at home.
Germany’s Elo rating was high to begin with at 2046, which is stronger than a number of World Cup winners. But it gained 150 more points throughout the World Cup (about half of them by beating Brazil 7-1), finishing with a rating of 2196.
That's 40 points better than any other World Cup winning team ever. I don't think we'll ever see a team this good again. These guys are the best of the best.
Other teams — notably Spain from 2008 to 2012, and Brazil under Pele — had longer sustained stretches at the apex of world football. But Germany is young and deep. Mario Götze, who scored the winning goal in the final Sunday, is 22. Thomas Müller and Toni Kroos are 24, and Mesut Özil is 25. The Germans have a good chance to go in as the favorites in the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Still, the competition is going to be tough. At the start of the next tournament, Brazil’s Neymar and Colombia’s James Rodríguez will be just 26, and Lionel Messi — despite playing in his fourth World Cup — only 30. France is perhaps a player away from competing with the world’s best teams, and after having won FIFA’s Under-20 World Cuplast year, it could make that transition soon. This is a great era for the international game, and that makes what Germany accomplished all the more impressive.
From an American sports perspective, Germany didn't have a Michael Jordan or LeBron James, but they are instead the San Antonio Spurs, a collection of very good, All-Star players all on the same team and who perform well together. It's a franchise that has quietly won 5 NBA championships in 16 seasons. Center Tim Duncan may not be the best player in the NBA, just like Germany's Thomas Muller isn't the best soccer player out there compared to Brazil's Neymar or Argentina's Messi, but Tim Duncan now has five rings and nobody can tell him boo.
I'd call the Spurs the best NBA squad in the last 15 years, easy. Germany is all that and more in the soccer world right now, and yeah, 2018 you would have to consider them the favorites too.