Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Football: Germany's Loew on a high

German manager Joachim Loew. Photo / AP
German manager Joachim Loew. Photo / AP

If you think the All Blacks are consistent - take a look at the German football team. Just like their cars and appliances, German sides are uber reliable, in a much more global game.

They don't win every tournament - nobody can do that - but they almost always perform when it counts.

Monday's match against Argentina will be their eighth World Cup final appearance, more than any other team, since making their first in 1954.

They have finished outside the top four at a World Cup only four times in the past 60 years. This current Die Mannschaft has reached at least the semifinals of every European Championship and World Cup since 2006.

So how do they do it?

"We are always trying to prepare our team before a tournament in the best possible way," German coach Joachim Loew told the Herald on Sunday before the World Cup. "We try to give them some time for recovery, keep them in good shape after a long season and build up a strategy and team structure for a tournament.

The players are used to that and work extremely well. That's why we can achieve great results."

Loew, who took over from Jurgen Klinsmann after the 2006 World Cup, is renowned for his preparation.

Four years ago in South Africa the German contingent included three fitness coaches, four team doctors, four physiotherapists, two scouts, five travel and logistics managers and five media staff. There were also another 15 people in the group, including kit men and cooks. Loew is also a perfectionist. Against Brazil last Wednesday, Mesut Ozil missed an easy chance in the dying minutes, perhaps taking pity on the Selecao. Germany were already ahead 7-0 but Loew was furious with the miss..

Succeeding the popular Klinsmann wasn't easy, and Loew also had a public spat with senior player Michael Ballack shortly after taking charge, but he has achieved great success.

He wins games (76 victories and 20 draws from 111 matches) and is credited with re-engineering Germany's style.

No team has evolved more in recent years - gone is the grinding efficiency of the 1980s and 1990s. They scored 36 times in 10 qualifying matches for this tournament and in Brazil they've scored more goals (15) and created more opportunities than any other team.

The German players are encouraged to back themselves. Photo / AP
The German players are encouraged to back themselves. Photo / AP


Their attack is completely fluid and comes from everywhere. Different line-ups and tactical variations can be employed during a match, a nightmare for opposition defences.

"We use the time before a tournament to build up a command structure inside the team, to set up some strategies for the matches and some tactical autonomy for our style of playing," says Loew. "During a tournament we only do slight changes due to injuries, suspensions etc. This allows us to perform on a constantly high level and in the way that players are used to."

Loew is also always building for the future, creating the perfect blend. His current team has 11 players with World Cup experience and another nine tournament debutants, all under 25.

Germany has faced some challenging moments in Brazil; Ghana were a whisker away from a 3-1 lead in their group game, the United States provided a testing encounter in the Recife rain, and Algeria pushed the Europeans to the limit in the second round. But their players always seem to respond, to find a way to come back and are renowned for their ability to perform in the latter stages of a tournament.

"You have to see this situation as a opportunity to win something," says Loew. "In the playoffs, you should not think that you can lose the match and not make it to the next round. Our players always believe in their own strengths, [which] prepares them for difficult situations."

Loew has had his own tough moments. After the 2012 European Championships, where Germany was upset by Italy in the semifinals, he was heavily criticised for his tactics (Germany failed to shut down Andrea Pirlo) and many called for his head.

But he survived - it was likely, as the German Football Federation have never sacked a coach and have employed only 10 since 1908 - and he has taken Germany to another World Cup final.

"We can't influence the media or public expectation," says Loew.

"We have the goal to win the matches and people can be sure that we try everything possible to give the best performance on the pitch. If this doesn't go to plan, we can always be sure to have tried everything possible."

Loew will want to win tomorrow not just for himself but also for faithful lieutenants such as Philipp Lahm (30), Bastian Schweinsteiger (29), Per Mertesacker (29) and Lukas Podolski (29) who may not feature in another World Cup.

Tomorrow's game won't be the procession many are anticipating. From a slow start, Argentina have gained momentum with every outing and are full of belief. La Albiceleste have plenty of attacking weapons and a tenacious, often underrated defence.

There is only one thing certain about tomorrow's final. This German team will fight to the end.

"[The spirit and belief] is in our players and we encourage them to believe in themselves," says Loew. "German football has a long tradition of never giving up and we want it to continue. All our players know that everything can change in every second of every match."

- Herald on Sunday

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