nothing happens, twice!
Under Löw, Germany could hit the heights again

Thanks to the canny tutelage of Jogi Löw, Germany are the best team in Europe right now and well placed to get better.
Raphael Honigstein
June 7, 2007 4:17 PM

On Saturday, exactly one year after Philipp Lahm's sweet curler into the Costa Rican net kicked off a month of frenetic flag-waving, thousands of Germans will don their replica kits, silly hats and black, red and gold scarves again. They will congregate in Munich's tree-lined Leopold Strasse to watch the screening of "Sommermärchen", Sönke Wortmann's award-winning documentary of Germany's World Cup campaign. Franz Beckenbauer will be guest of honour, and he'll witness scenes of jubilation, unashamed patriotism and mass euphoria on a scale that goes far beyond nostalgic indulgence. Somehow, you see, the party never stopped.

German football still feels incredibly good about itself, and the national team, in particular, are more popular than anybody can remember. And justifiably so. Jogi Löw's men sit pretty on top of their group, have virtually qualified for Euro 2008 already, and have made it in style (a very laboured 2-1 win over Slovakia last night notwithstanding). With 19 from 21 possible points, they boast the continent's best qualifying record. Admittedly, their group is not the most difficult one, and they have played the mighty San Marino twice, but it's hard to overstate how far this side has come in 12 months.

Löw, Jürgen Klinsmann's former assistant, has built on the revolution instigated by his predecessor and transformed Germany's playing style into a workable, more mature system well suited to the unglamorous slog of qualifying. Whereas Klinsmann's football always had something of a sugar-rush about it and was fired by a fanatic fervour to do well in their "own" World Cup, the softly-spoken Swabian has concocted something a lot more refined and sustainable. "He's pulled off the trick of guiding the team into everyday life after the highs of the World Cup, without them suffering a hangover", wrote Berliner Zeitung, admiringly. Like Jose Mourinho and Rafael Benítez, Löw is a huge fan of modern scientific training methods and his stellar results have quickly disarmed tabloid critics who dismissed them all as fads. He's also easily the best-dressed national manager ever. Fact!

Beckenbauer, for once, had it right when he recently claimed that Germany's football must be "the best in Europe right now". They play a thoroughly modern pressing and passing game that's totally attack-minded. Crucially, the players always seem to perform a little better for their country than for their clubs. Löw, in other words, gets the maximum out of them and it's no coincidence that Michael Ballack, who's worked with Mourinho, Felix Magath, Ottmar Hitzfeld, Christoph Daum and Otto Rehhagel before, this week called him "the perfect manager".

The highlight of Löw's reign has been a very convincing 2-1 away win against the Czech Republic, the team who plunged German football into a deep existentialist crisis when they beat Rudi Völler's side by the same margin in Euro 2004 with only a B team (they had rested of their best players). Völler's resignation paved the way for the Klinsmann shake-up. The ex-Spurs striker was perhaps a little too stubborn and rigorous in his ways - ultimately, a lot of energy was wasted on fighting needless battles against the German football establishment. The much less confrontational Löw, however, has avoided any spats and is universally accepted in a way that Klinsmann never could be.

The most surprising aspect of this positive development is the fact that it was achieved despite lots of injuries and the loss of form of a host of key players. Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lukas Podolski, the devastatingly effective left side of Germany's World Cup team, have been sleepwalking through the season. The latter two didn't feature in this week's easy wins over San Marino and Slovakia because of knee problems but weren't really missed.

Ballack, who's also still out with an ankle injury, has, as we know, endured a difficult first year at Chelsea. His midfield lieutenant Torsten Frings distracted himself and Werder with contract negotiations with Juventus, and Miroslav Klose is lost in his own transfer saga. Individually, these players have all done worse after the World Cup, yet the team is playing better than ever. Löw must take great credit for this. The manager has also brought on half a dozen promising youngsters, such as Stuttgart striker Mario Gomez, midfielders Piotr Trochowski (Hamburg) and Roberto Hilbert (Stuttgart) and new Bayern recruit Marcell Jansen. Another batch, including Serdar Tasci and Sami Khedira (both Stuttgart), are waiting in the wings. For the first time in a generation, there is genuine competition for places. The team no longer picks itself.

With so much quality on the bench, compensating for the loss of regulars has been remarkably easy. It helps, of course, that there is a coherent system in place, in which new players can fit in without much disruption. It's a striking anachronism in the modern game but true nevertheless: Germany's national team is actually the best team in the country and setting the benchmark when it comes to team development. "Our goal for the new season will be to make improvements on an individual basis. Of course there is work to do on our tactics as well but improving individually is now the target", Löw said on Wednesday.

Against Slovakia, the team looked tired and eager to go on holiday. After the summer break England at the new Wembley awaits, the hardest test of Löw's new regime. This match is only a friendly but it could well prove a watershed. When the West Germany of Gunther Netzer, Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Müller won there 3-1 in 1972 - the performance is still widely seen as the national team's best ever - it heralded a golden age for the national team and the country's club sides.

Beating a side chiefly propped up by a MLS player should not be beyond Ballack and co. To be sure, they haven't won anything yet. But for the first time in nearly ten years they actually look perfectly capable of doing so. For Germany, a country that since the turn of the millennium has become used to mostly being an also-ran, that is a good enough reason to celebrate.


Особенно умилило: Löw is a huge fan of modern scientific training methods and his stellar results have quickly disarmed tabloid critics who dismissed them all as fads. He's also easily the best-dressed national manager ever. Fact!

@темы: Nationalmannschaft, articles, coaches

2007-06-09 в 21:48 

nothing happens, twice!
+ пару понравившихся комментариев

-What strikes me the most as an outsider is that the German team all seem to enjoy playing together, sniping from Klose and Frings excepted. It's a big change from watching and reading about the England team, who seem to be annoyed with each other all the time. There's a team spirit that makes me enjoy watching Germany. You don't see that as much in other national teams...

2007-06-09 в 21:48 

nothing happens, twice!
It will be no suprise if Germany win the Euro 2008.
I think that they will be the neutrals' favourites. It will be amazing, Germany will be, probably, one of the most supported national teams outside there nation....! I know people in israel (israel!) that support them already! wow

2007-06-09 в 21:49 

robert ross
nothing happens, twice!
Does it matter?

It doesn't matter how good or bad their national side is, you "never bet against the Germans"

2007-06-09 в 21:56 

robert ross
nothing happens, twice!
outplaying Germany is one thing - actually beating them, something else entirely

2007-06-09 в 22:04 

robert ross
nothing happens, twice!
He's well liked in Swabia, though, since he won us the cup in 97, and only got axed since he wasn't drinking with the then president.

Best team in Europe? I doubt it. But that's not the point. Everybody's pleased about a team that is actually trying, and pushing itself. In a way it's a very English attribute, i.e. workrate, that helped win people over. And Klinsi has managed to channel that workrate into going forward, so hats off to the managers and the players.

2007-06-10 в 21:20 

[Выйди, падла, с кукурузы]
Ну, а кто это теперь всё переведёт для особо тупых?:)

2007-06-11 в 00:52 

nothing happens, twice!
Считай это дополнительным стимулом добить "любимый" язык XD

2007-06-11 в 19:02 

[Выйди, падла, с кукурузы]
Какие все жестокие!
*сложила лапки и собралась помереть*


German football Squad