German World Cup winner Philipp Lahm says the secret to England’s success at last summer’s tournament in Russia was the “team spirit” that their predecessors lacked.
The Bayern Munich legend - now an ambassador for his country's Euro 2024 bid - revealed that his biggest question about England heading into the competition was whether Gareth Southgate could finally solve a long-term problem for the national team.
Lahm played against more talented and famous English squads, particularly in the 2010 World Cup round-of-16 match that Germany won 4-1, but is not surprised that Southgate’s men surpassed them in Russia.
“My question was whether they could really sustain form over the course of a tournament, and bring their individual abilities to the fore for the benefit of the team during this long period where in the end you face really difficult opponents.
“What I saw on the pitch was that the team worked as a good functioning team, everyone was helping out each other and this is a leading example of what you need to be able to do to compete at the highest level. Working together, helping each other out, a good team spirit is what you need to be successful.”
Southgate has claimed that 2018 could be for the English side what the 2006 World Cup was for Germany, serving as an educational tournament that kick-starts a new era and instils a squad with valuable tournament experience. Lahm did not disagree with this, but hinted that his generation had better players.
“Just looking at our team from 2006 to 2014 period, it helped writing history together, going through so many semi-finals, a final,” he added.
“It was something extremely educational. Everybody knew how a teammate would react in difficult times, or under pressure, so this knowledge of how people would react to pressure helped being able compete at the highest level, and have this team spirit that is so crucial for being successful.
“Nonetheless, you need quality individual players in the national squad!”