Joachim Loew saving Germany's best for Brazil 2014
By Ryland JAMES, AFP
July 13, 2014, 12:00 am TWN
RIO DE JANEIRO--Joachim Loew has again saved Germany's best until the World Cup finals with the 54-year-old poised to finally claim his first major title in Brazil.
Having been appointed Jurgen Klinsmann's assistant in 2004 before becoming head coach in 2006, Germany have reached at least the semifinals of all five major tournaments during his decade involved.
"Everyone changes over ten years, you gain experiences, you have triumph and defeats, but what he has preserved is a clear-cut philosophy," said his captain Philipp Lahm, who has been with Loew every step of the way.
"He addresses issues which need looking at early on and leaves nothing to chance."
Third-place at the 2006 World Cup heralded Germany's return to the international stage after failing to reach the knock-out stages of Euro 2004.
Loew took the Germans to the Euro 2008 final where they lost to a Spanish side at the start of a golden era.
Despite fielding one of the youngest squads at the 2010 World Cup, Loew's young guns hammered Australia, England and Argentina in South Africa.
Spain again ended the Germans run to the final, but this time a third-place finish failed to satisfy a title-hungry nation.
Despite steering Germany to a perfect set of 10 wins to qualify for Euro 2012, Loew started being criticized after losing to Italy in the semifinals.
The charges levied at him by the German media piled up.
Too hard. Too soft. Too stubborn. Too loyal. Doesn't listen to the public. Depends too much on aging striker Miroslav Klose. Must drop Mesut Ozil.
More grumblings followed when Loew copied Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola in switching captain Philipp Lahm from right-back to midfield this season.
Germany qualified for Brazil with nine wins from ten matches, only a stunning fight-back by Sweden, who drew 4-4 in Berlin, blotted another perfect record.
The mutterings grew louder when Germany's final World Cup squad was announced.
Injury-prone 36-year-old Klose was the only recognized striker.
Captain Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Manuel Neuer all arrived at the training camp carrying injuries.
Sami Khedira arrived from Real Madrid unfit after six months on the sidelines with a knee injury.
'Home before the semifinals' was the general verdict from disgruntled fans.
Fast forward five weeks and only Argentina stands in the way of Loew winning the World Cup title at Rio de Janeiro's Maracana Stadium on Sunday.
Khedira and Schweinsteiger have been outstanding in the defensive midfield and Lahm effortlessly switched to right-back once the pair were fit.
Thomas Mueller was unveiled as Germany's new striker with a hat-trick in the opening rout of Portugal, then slotted back to the right wing for Klose.
A back four exclusively made up of center-backs was a success in the group stages and repeated faith paid off with Ozil slowly finding his form.
Old rivals France were comfortably dealt with in the quarterfinals, while the 7-1 semifinal thrashing of the hosts is the outstanding result of Brazil 2014.
A fourth World Cup title victory will elevate Loew to 'football god' status enjoyed in Germany by Franz Beckenbauer (1990), Helmut Schoen (1974) and Sepp Herberger (1954).
Germany team manager Oliver Bierhoff says the mild-mannered Loew deserves all the praise he gets.
"I sometimes smile when I read reports that Loew must listen more to the German public," said Bierhoff with Loew having won 76 of his 111 internationals.
"He's always ready to listen and compromise, he likes debating things with his own players and coaches. This man is not a dictator.
"Neither is he shy about hard decisions. He is honest with his players.
"The overall success is a jigsaw puzzle, but Loew's piece is the biggest."
German national soccer team head coach Joachim Loew attends a news conference at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Monday, July 7. (AP)