Mario Gotze's moment of brilliance shortly after coming off the bench, a shower of golden confetti, Bastian Schweinsteiger's tears of joy and Philipp Lahm holding the Trophy aloft under the Maracana floodlights. These are just some of the countless images that undoubtedly spring to the minds of football fans when looking back at the year gone by and specifically the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. These memories necessarily come tinged with delight or disappointment, depending on your allegiances.
For the long-suffering German supporters, the triumph in Rio ended a 24-year wait for their fourth world crown. With the intervening period having featured a number of near misses, the Mannschaft exorcised some demons by finally getting over the line. In the words of coach Joachim Low in a recent interview with FIFA.com, "Our time had come." But what has the aftermath been like? Shorn of several key figures, the national side have had the odd hiccup since re-establishing themselves as the team to beat. On the other hand, the profile of the German Bundesliga has unmistakably been boosted by Germany's achievements on Brazilian soil, so the spotlight has shone even brighter on the many world champions involved in some of the big stories of the 2014/15 season so far.
Below, FIFA.com recaps how the first half of the current Bundesliga campaign has gone from the perspective of the German internationals who went to Brazil. We also make a brief detour to Spain, where another German hero is once again setting the world alight.
Bayern break new ground, Dortmund stuck in a rut
25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Germany won their first world crown since reunification. Subsequently, Bayern Munich – who started the season with no fewer than 12 world champions among their ranks – claimed the honorary title of autumn champions. One could be forgiven for assuming that this is nothing to write home about. The stats, however, show that this is far from the case. Pep Guardiola's men currently enjoy an 11-point lead over their closest challengers and are yet to be beaten, a feat that cannot be underestimated. Moreover, on only three occasions following the last 12 World Cups – i.e. since 1966 – have the Bavarians gone into the winter break top of the Bundesliga table, and they had never done so after Germany's campaign ended in glory.
If Bayern are in dreamland, Borussia Dortmund, their biggest rivals on paper, are enduring a post-Brazil nightmare, languishing just one place above the foot of the table after 17 matches. In other words, BVB find themselves in the automatic relegation zone at the midway point of the campaign for the first time in 30 years, despite boasting several members of Germany's victorious squad, namely Mats Hummels, Roman Weidenfeller, Kevin Grosskreutz, Matthias Ginter and Erik Durm. The continued struggles of Marco Reus, who was forced to wave goodbye to the World Cup just hours before the squad flew out to Brazil, have certainly contributed to Dortmund's demise: injury problems have restricted the attacking midfielder to just seven appearances this season. Wolfsburg have made the most of Jurgen Klopp's side's troubles to position themselves at the head of the chasing pack behind Bayern.
Gotze going from strength to strength, Schweinsteiger resurgent
Germany won more than just silverware in the summer: they also earned plaudits for their enterprising style of play, an approach also in evidence at South Africa 2010. As such, it is perhaps unsurprising that several of the country's attacking players have flourished on the back of their exploits on the world stage. Mario Gotze has indisputably kicked it up a notch since his exquisite volley settled the Final against Argentina, while Thomas Muller – who picked up the adidas Silver Boot and Ball in Brazil – has also lived up to expectations. The pair have both hit the ground running this term, scoring seven times – a figure that only Dutch wizard Arjen Robben (the adidas Bronze Ball winner) can better in the Bayern squad, having notched ten times in league action.
At the back, meanwhile, Bayern stopper Jerome Boateng has built on his excellent performances in the latter stages of the World Cup. Superb as Manuel Neuer, the adidas Golden Glove recipient in the summer, may be, he owes his record of just four goals conceded in 17 matches this season at least in part to the 26-year-old's form in front of him. Nevertheless, the goalkeeper has been as impressive as ever and has a strong case to capture the FIFA Ballon d'Or 2014 ahead of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
By contrast, the Mannschaft's two captains in 2014 have had a mixed end to the year. A few months after retiring from international football, Philipp Lahm, who wore the armband in Brazil, suffered a serious injury to his right ankle, leaving him facing several months on the sidelines. On the other hand, a knee ligament problem meant that his successor as Germany skipper, Bastian Schweinsteiger, had to wait until late November to return to action after the Final in Rio. However, the hard-running midfielder has shone since his comeback and signed off for the year in style with a peach of a free-kick against Mainz. The Bayern fans are rightly salivating at the prospect of seeing Schweini line up regularly in tandem with fellow midfield mastermind and World Cup winner Xabi Alonso, who had a key role in Spain's 2010 triumph.
Kramer and Mustafi, revelations
Christoph Kramer is another player to have been buoyed by the events of the summer, though in his case his recollections of Brazil are famously hazy. With Sami Khedira suspended for the showpiece, the young anchorman was thrown into the deep end for his fifth international cap (and only his second start), given the daunting task of helping to halt Lionel Messi and Co. However, just half an hour into the match, the 23-year-old had to be substituted with concussion. In his own words, watching the footage of the action at the Maracana is a "weird" experience: "I can see myself, but I feel nothing whatsoever, absolutely no emotions."
The first half of the season has certainly been memorable where Kramer is concerned. The midfielder has cemented his status as one of the leaders of Germany's next generation with his influential displays for fourth-placed Borussia Monchengladbach, who are dreaming of qualifying for next year's UEFA Champions League. And who could forget his extraordinary 45-yard own goal in the 1-0 defeat by Dortmund? In any case, Kramer has amply proven that he is capable of taking the rough with the smooth with a smile on his face.
Shkodran Mustafi has been through a similar whirlwind. Drafted into the World Cup squad at the last minute, the defender followed up his bit-part role in Germany's Brazilian conquest by moving to Valencia, where he has established himself as a regular. As the 22-year-old put it when talking to FIFA.com, "I've experienced more in the space of one year than most players do during several years of their careers."
Kroos keeps rising
Another German who left for Spain in the summer seems to be riding a never-ending wave. The World Cup was the showcase for Toni Kroos's transformation into Germany's orchestrator-in-chief: his performances in Brazil earned him top spot in the Castrol Index and he has taken to life at Real Madrid like a duck to water, quickly becoming a linchpin for the European champions.
Kroos, alongside compatriot and club team-mate Khedira, recently lifted his second world title of 2014. "It's a beautiful end to a sensational year," the ex-Bayern Munich midfielder gushed to FIFA.com following the medal ceremony at the FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2014. And indeed, though the pair were wearing the white not of their country, but of Real Madrid, what better way could there be to round off a golden 12 months for German football?