The date was June 9 2006. It was the first match in a World Cup finals for then coach Juergen Klinsmann as Germany coach, and as he was as a player, the passion and intensity remained. His stature as being the hero of the 1990 World Cup and 1996 European Championship triumphs is by no means an exaggeration, but one man quietly was assessing everything from his senior. His name is none other than Joachim Loew, someone who has become one of the principled men in world football. The former playmaker was not as prolific or even as skillful as Klinsmann. Actually the man we know as Loew never even made it big as a footballer.
But as a silent fox, he cotinuedn learning his trade from his time in Stuttgart, and the sky was the only limit for Loew. This year, Loew celebrated 10 years as Der Mannschaft boss, and from the triumphs of the Maracana to the blow in Vienna, he has overseen the evolution of Germany’s growth since the disaster of Euro 2004 and they are once again one of the most adored teams in world football.
Photo credit: AP Photo/David Vincent
His initial time in charge saw him keep to the tactics of Klinsmann while slowly building Der Mannschaft from the traditionally strong, long ball and physical mindset of play and this continued right through to their Euro 2008 runners-up finish. Nothing changed during the 2010 World Cup qualifiers, and despite Loew blooding youngsters who were leaning in the direction of playing a technical, short passing game, the classical German style of play still existed, although it was slowly changing after Klinsmann set the ball rolling post-2004.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Matthias Schrader
The defining moment may well be when regular skipper Michael Ballack suffered an injury during the FA Cup final with his club Chelsea, which eventually led to him been left out of Der Mannschaft’s squad for the World Cup finals in South Africa. In came players like Mesut Oezil, Sami Khedira. Toni Kroos, Manuel Neuer, Thomas Mueller and many other young, far more technically gifted players. The old guard remained; Per Mertsacker, Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose were still there, and it did not take them long to adapt to Loew’s new style of play.
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16 goals throughout the entire competition and a third place finished followed, but the trial did not end in error for Loew and Germany, and this was a style Der Mannschaft were going to adapt and feel comfortable with in every international competition going forward. Euro 2012 was Loew’s third major competition, and even a semi-final defeat in the final in Eastern Europe was not going to deter the German boss and his philosophy. Despite questions surrounding Germany’s mentality in terms of winning silverware (some German media claiming they lacked emotion when being knocked out in Euro 2012), Loew knew sometime or another he would be reaping the rewards.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Martin Meissner
More young players started coming in, and the likes of Andrea Schuerrle, Mario Goetze, Marco Reus saw the talent flowing in. The World Cup in Brazil was the crowing moment. After eight years being in charge of Der Mannschaft and instilling his philosophy, Loew led the national team to world glory, and a sense of belief that this not be the last trophy to be won by this squad. 2016 presented Loew with a chance to complete a World and European double at the Euros in France, but he would fall short against the host nation.
Some believed this was the end for Loew, but his contract extension two weeks ago was proof that the German Football Association (DFB) are as impressed as ever. So why has DFB President Reinhard Grindel decided to extend his contract? Firstly, despite the talent of managers within Germany, no one may possess the same charisma, pragmatism and vision as Loew does. From Neuer acting as a sweeper, to centre-backs pressing high to having creative players in and around the park, Loew has developed one of the most complete squads in world football.
Consistency is something the DFB have seen with Loew, and being in the semi-finals of every major competition since 2008 is something they know they can trust they will get with him. The flaws within the German squad will always be there. The search for a replacement in record goal scorer Miroslav Klose remains a mystery, an alternative to Plan A in terms of tactics becomes the next big challenge for Loew and maintaining this consistency will become even more challenging because Der Mannschaft have set the bar for other nations to follow.
No coach can guarantee you silverware at every major competition, and Loew is definitely not immune to that. But extending Loew’s contract to to the European Championships in 2020 is a sensible rather more than sentimental move from the DFB. Loew’s glory in Brazil two years ago along with his fresh contract extension has in many ways demanded another trophy from Germany. The side will always go into major competitions among the favourites, and his consistency and talent within his squad beats any of his predecessors, something nations around the world sometimes fail to match.