July 2012: Löw to stay on course despite criticism

The criticism hit national coach Joachim Löw and Germany’s international players hard. But self-critically the whole team representing the German Football Association (DFB) faced up to the accusations after the shock exit in the semifinals of the European Championship. “The coach always has to take responsibility for a defeat. I feel the team performed well at the tournament. We did lots of good things and shouldn’t question too much,” said Löw. The debrief after the 2-1 defeat against Italy in Warsaw and the analysis of the whole performance at the championship has been put off to a later date by Löw and his assistants Hansi Flick, Andreas Köpke and general manager Oliver Bierhoff.

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Joachim Löw (2nd from left) is disappointed as is Hansi Flick (left), Andreas Köpke (right), doctors Sepp Schmidt, Tim Meyer and general manager Oliver Bierhoff (behind Köpke). (Photo: Firo/Augenklick


“One needs a bit more time off than usual,” said Löw. But there’s not much time remaining. The DFB team’s first international match after Euro 2012 is only six weeks away on 15 August when they take on Argentina on Frankfurt/Main. September sees the start of the qualifying competition for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The opponents are the Faroe Islands, Austria, Sweden, Ireland and Kazakhstan. After the qualifying competition en route to the tournament in Poland and Ukraine when they won all ten matches, the target is once against to come first and not to have to take part in the play-offs as the group runners-up.

Big changes to the squad or the style of play are not to be expected. “Our course and the things we did were very good,” said Löw. But there was a large amount of criticism immediately after being knocked out in Warsaw. Fellow coach Felix Magath, who was a beaten finalist as a player in 1982 and 1986, and ex-captain Michael Ballack missed the capabilities against Italy for which Germany are best known – namely fighting spirit and passion. Günter Netzer, ex- European Champion and World Cup winner, whose analysis carries a lot of weight, was critical of team captain Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lukas Podolski.

Experts miss players with leadership qualities

That Löw chose the wrong tactics against the clever Italians was the subject of much discussion immediately after the game. The 52-year-old’s team selection and strategic decisions did appear to be suddenly very muddled. The motto that the team plays its own game and that it doesn’t allow the opponents to dictate its tactics didn’t hold true anymore. As a result the German eleven also lost because they were disjointed and no longer the well-oiled machine.

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One of the most spectacular Euro 2012 goals: Mario Balotelli scores against Philipp Lahm and Manuel Neuer to put Italy 2-0 up against Germany. (Photo: Firo/Augenklick)


Magath spoke of a “fatal misbelief to think that the team could succeed at the Euro by just playing good football.” The Italians showed everybody how one should go about playing a European Championships semifinal, namely “committed, hungry and physical, and not almost non-contact like our eleven.” It was something the former German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn was critical of on the national ZDF television channel. “The tenacity, the unequivocal passion, desire and discipline on the pitch were lacking,” said Kahn.

The national coach was recommended to rethink a few things. In Magath’s opinion, “Löw has concentrated on creating an intact team spirit over the past few years. On the other hand he has neglected to instil a sense of aggression.” Ballack bemoaned that the players weren’t fully convinced that they could achieve their goals and disagreed with Löw’s view that the Euro had been positive. “One can’t now make out the Euro to have been better than it was. The players talked of winning the title. And they had the class to do it. But they didn’t believe in it enough,” pronounced Ballack who was capped 98 times for his country. He and Netzer pointed out that the German team no longer had anybody with real leadership qualities.

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Stunned, Philipp Lahm holds his head: the German captain can see the defeat against Italy coming. (Photo: Firo/Augenklick)


In a piece for Germany’s biggest Sunday newspaper (“Bild am Sonntag”) Netzer wrote that he was disappointed at the players who really should be leading figures. In front of the cameras, Lahm was “rhetorically brilliant” but when playing for Munich and the national side this season he has displayed, with the exception of the game against the Netherlands, some serious defensive weaknesses. “He has lost the urge to go forwards and his effectiveness.” Podolski only continues to be an international player through the grace of Löw,” whilst Schweinsteiger “simply doesn’t have the personality to lead.”

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Magath, Kahn and Netzer are however agreed that Löw is the right man for the job as national coach. DFB President Wolfgang Niersbach gave the coach his full backing immediately after the match. “Löw is indisputably one of the world’s best coaches,” said Netzer. The contract with Löw runs until summer 2014.

Löw first came in for criticism in the last game at the Euro 2012 when he employed the wrong strategy which he recognised but was no longer in a position to rectify. A review also has to include the hindsight that Schweinsteiger wasn’t fully fit during the whole tournament, that Mesut Özil was well below par and that Podolski, the way he was playing, didn’t deserve a place in the starting line-up. The new season will bring new challenges for the DFB who, since 1 July, now has to share the label as “three-time European Champions” with Spain.

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Mesut Özil tried hard but after a long season with Real Madrid, the German playmaker never really got into the swing of things. (Photo: GES/Augenklick)

Germany’s fixtures in the 2012/2013 season:

15 August 2012, Frankfurt/Main: Germany - Argentina
(Friendly/8.45 pm)

7 September 2012, Hanover: Germany – Faroe Islands
(World Cup qualifying/8.45 pm)

11 September 2012, Vienna: Austria - Germany
(World Cup qualifying /8.45 pm)

12 October 2012: Ireland - Germany
(World Cup qualifying /8.45 pm)

16 October 2012, Berlin: Germany - Sweden
(World Cup qualifying /8.45 pm /ARD)

14 November 2012, Amsterdam: Netherlands - Germany
(Friendly /8.30 pm)

6 February 2013: France - Germany
(Friendly)

22 March 2013: Kazakhstan - Germany
(World Cup qualifying)

26 March 2013, Nuremberg: Germany - Kazakhstan
(World Cup qualifying)

June 2013: possible series of friendly matches in USA (and Canada)
(Some venues and kick-off times are still to be arranged)