Hamann: Youth started new era for Germany

Former Germany international Dietmar Hamann believes the introduction of centres of excellence to develop younger players post-Euro 2004 has had an influential role in the country's rejuvination.

The Germans face Italy in their Euro 2012 semi-final, having lived up to their billing as second favourites behind Spain by winning every match to date in Poland and Ukraine.

After losing 1-0 to Spain in the final of Euro 2008, many are expecting this year's final to be a repeat, with Spain already confirming their place in Sunday’s showpiece with victory over rivals Portugal on penalties.

But Germany have not always enjoyed success in major tournaments, with both Euro 2000 and 2004 seeing Die Mannschaft fail to reach the knockout phase after being humiliated 3-0 by Croatia in the quarter-finals of the 1998 World Cup.

"When we went to the World Cup in 1998 I was the second youngest player at 24, we didn’t really have any young players coming through and so when we went to Euro 2000 we didn’t really have a good team," Hamann told Yahoo!

"Then in 2004, I don’t want to say we were unlucky because we played three games and we had our chance to go through but for one reason or another it didn’t work out and we didn’t get into the second phase of the tournament.

"Nevertheless I believe 2000 was the critical tournament because after that people realised if you didn’t have the right structures in place it is very hard to compete over a long period of time."

However Hamann, known to many English fans as the last player to score at the old Wembley, believes the introduction of centres of excellence allowed the national team to focus on the younger generation and begin a new era.

"I think they changed a lot with the youth development; they put centres of excellence in place where they observed the best players from every region and I believe it was a highly successful structure to have," he added.

"As a result we produced a host of younger players over the coming years that are still playing today and are the spine of the team.

"I think this was definitely a change for the better which put German football back on the map."

For more insight from Dietmar Hamann and other leading managers, plus coverage of Euro 2012, visit yahoo.eurosport.com

By Matt Maltby