Wednesday, 15 November 2017

How Löw climbed to the mountaintop, 10.11.2017

The Times
10 November 2017

On July 26, 2004, after an ignominious campaign which included the nadir of a 0-0 draw with Latvia, the German Football Association appointed Jürgen Klinsmann as the national team's head coach. Given his total lack of coaching experience, much attention swirled around his choice of assistant.

Names in the frame included the experienced Bundesliga manager Ralf Rangnick, Jürgen Köhler, Klinsmann's World Cup-winning team-mate and the Iclenad manager Asgeir Sigurvinsson. But in the end Klinsmann went for someone who he knew from his days at the Hennes Weisweiler Coaching Academy, a man who had two fourth-place Bundesliga finishes with Stuttgart on his CV but had left two of his subsequent clubs in the relegation zone. "Believe me," Klinsmann said at the unveiling of his No 2 "he's not just here to put the cones out."

Thirteen years on, Joachim Löw, an unremarkable player and initially unremarkable coach, is one of the most recognisable figures in football. Since taking over from Klinsmann after the 2006 World Cup, he has led Germany to three major semi-finals, a European Championship final, a Confederations Cup win and won the 2014 World Cup.

Perhaps more remarkable than Löw's achievements is his longevity. England have had five permanent managers during Löw's 11 year and four month tenure. Löw has been in charge for so long that the first name on his first team-sheet, Jens Lehmann, was born four months after Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, while his team for the match against England could feature three players (Julian Brandt, Leroy Sane and Timo Werner) born in 1996.

It is hard to think of an English analogue for Löw. Imagine a Sir Alf Ramsey for the mass-media age, and you would be somewhere close to gauging his renown. And yet, in an industry of charistmatic self-promoters, Löw, in his black v-neck and scarf, can cut an inscrutable figure. He does not engage in touchline theatrics, or make outrageous statements in press conferences, he is not a funky tactician. So who exactly is the man beneath the moptop?

"He's a very nice, laid-back guy," Lars Wallrodt, the chief football writer for Die Welt says. "In football you come across a lot of people who consider themselves superior to others. Löw is very down-to-earth, he has no interst in swanking around or pretending to be anything that he's not. He's very natural and likeable but oer the years he has become more assertive.

"Under Klinsmann, he was the tactics guy. Klinsmann was the motivator who would light a fire under them. But to say that he's merely a good tactician or a good analyst would be to sell him short. He has learnt how to lead the team.

"He suits perfectly the job of international manager, where he has one job to do, over a short period of time, with a collection of individual players from different clubs, to mould a team, not just in a playing sense, but mentally. The team that he has shaped considers itself a team in the truest sense of the word."

The most successful and adulated English sports coaches of their generation, such as Sir Clive Woodward and Sir Dave Brailsford. have been high priests of process. Löw is different. "When I make changes in the heat of a game, most of my decisions are not rational, but intuitive," he told the Süddeutsche Zeitung in 2014. "It is football's unpredictability that makes it so fascinating. I find myself permanently confronted by the question 'What now?'

Nor is he renowned as a harsh authoritarian. On the inexplicably vexed issue of whether players should be allowed to mix with their wives and partners during a tournament, he has been relaxed. His everyman approachability - and his fame - are reflected in the fact that he is almost universally known in Germany simply by the familiar mononym 'Jogi'.

"He has created a particular atmosphere whereby it is a privilege to be there, but it can be relaxed." Wallrodt says. "He has a natural authority, because his way of dealing with the players is very open, they see that what he is telling them makes sense. He doesn't scream at them, he is understanding, but has the final word. If a player steps out of line then he can be hard. But the players know that, and therefore they are very disciplined. It is hard to find anyone who has a bad opinion of him. He has even become something of a style icon in Germany; people talk about the "Jogi-Schal", a popular name for a man's narrow scarf.

It was not always thus. Löw's early results included defeats to Denmark and the Czech Republic. "When he took charge people were sceptical," Wallrodt says "He had a somewhat comical haircut, he has a somewhat comical accent and people sometimes make fun of him." When Germany lost to Italy in the Euro 2012 semi-final, Löw was under pressure again.

Naturally glory in Brazil silenced the doubters, but to survive for 11 years in he thin air of elite management requires more than success and popularity. After all, Klinsmann had both and he lasted two years as Bundestrainer, lamenting on his resignation "My big wish is to go back to leading a normal ife. I lack the power and strength to continue."

In his hometown of Freiburg, Löw tries to preserve the normal life that eluded Klinsmann. He goes to the cinema, eats at the Italian (despite the ribbing that followed the Euro 2012 defeat), plays football with his friends. He also has immense reserves of fortitude, and in trying moments, draws on a 2003 expedition in which he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.

"We took a different route over five days," Löw recalled in his Süddeutsche Zeitung interview. "On the last night I was at my limits. We'd already been going for 12 hours that day and we were trekking in temperatures of minus 30C. I wanted to turn round but something drove me on. That night things went through my head that I wouldn't have thought possible. But by sunrise we reached the summit and I got this feeling that nothing in the world is impossible.

Germany are ranked No 1 in the world and are the favourites to triumph in Russia. No manager has retained the World Cup since italy's Vittorio Pozzo in 1938, and Löw, whose contract runs until 2020, wants to emulate him.

"If anything my motivation has increased in recent years" he told the Süddeutsche Zeitung. "After every tournament there's an emotional comedown and that was especially true of 2014, but i already had the feeling that the team hadn't peaked. THat's the challenge and the allure; to relive that feeling of triumph. We can achieve something historic."

On the Wembley touchline tonight, Gareth Southgate will, for the second time in nine months, come face to face with a man who represents everything an international manager could aspire to be: successful, popular, durable, even iconic. It must seem far in the distance. But if the story of Joachim Löw shows one thing, it is that, with a fair wind and the will to forge ahead through dark moments, even an ordinary man can lead his country to the mountain top.

Uploaded for review and discussion purposes only.

Löw has a high opinion, 10.11.2017

Daily Express
10 November 2017

Joachim Löw believes England are no longer a long-ball team under Gareth Southgate and are much smarter tactically.

The manager of the world champions and the winners of the summer's Confederations Cup as a string of injury problems going into tonight's friendly but insists he would have been experimenting anyway.

Löw is believed to have a pool of about three dozen players to whittle down to his final squad for the World Cup.

But missing tonight through injury and illness will be goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, defender Jerome Boateng, midfielder Toni Kroos and forwards Thomas Müller and Marco Reus.

RB Leipzig defender Marcel Halstenberg is one newcomer likely to figure tonight and Löw warned his line-up they face a stern test.

"The England team hasn't been this strong in years," he said. "They rely far less on long balls. All the big clubs in England have coaches who put a lot of value on putting together combinations of passes.

"You also see it in the national team, where there is more emphasis on tactics.

"England have quick players, the team is very well organised and they attack quickly. They are one of the best teams in transition."

Uploaded for review and discussion purposes only.

Löw searches for answer to Germany's biggest worry... who is his best third-choice keeper? 10.11.2017

London Evening Standard
Friday 10 November 2017

England may be struggling with injuries to key personnel at Wembley tonight, but Germnay will also be missing some important players.

Thomas Müller, Jerome Boateng and Manuel Neuer were all starters in the World Cup Final three years ago, but miss out this evening through thigh, muscle and foot injuries respectively.

Neuer, captain of both Germany and Bayern Munich, is the most important cog missing. Reports in Germany have suggested his original comeback, planned for January, could be delayed a further five weeks, but Neuer's No 1 spot for club and country remains undisputed.

That does not stop the discussion in Germany of whether Bayer Leverkusen's Bernd Leno should be the No 3 goalkeeper behind Neuer and Barcelona's Marc-Andre ter Stegen. When people are fretting over whether coach Joachim Löw is picking the right third-choice keeper, it tells you something of the first-world problems he has.

The strength in depth was shown in the summer, when Germany won the Confederations Cup in Russia with what effectively was a B team. THe Under 21s, meanwhile, won the European Championship in Poland, despite being without 10 players who were either injured or with the senior squad in Russia.

Those successes did exactly what Oliver Bierhoff could have done without: namely raise expectations for next year's World Cup in Russia, which have Germany's general manager "a bit worried".

"The situation at a World Cup is quite different." said the former Germany striker. "We know we have to be at 100 per cent in everything we do. We can't be short of a single percentage point or centimetre in Russia next summer. We're the hunted."

Injuries and lack of fitness did a lot of the expectation lowering for Germany in Brazil in 2014. There were major doubts going into the tournament over the fitness of Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Miroslav Klose and Sami Khedira, four key players in Germany's eventual success. On top of that, they had an injury to Marco Reus, along with the exclusion of Ilkay Gundogan and Mario Gomez due to fitness worried. The eventual winners did not enter the tournament in the shape of the world champions.

That helped to create an environment that benefitted an experienced team which still had a point to prove at international level, having fallen short in the semi-finals of the previous two major tournaments. The majority of that starting XI was no stranger to the big occasion - eight had played in a Champions League Final during their careers. What's more, Neuer, Lahm, Boateng, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thomas Müller all had recent experience of overcoming past trauma in the final - having lost to Chelsea in Munich in 2012 - to then winning the competition the next year at Wembley.

Having that same sort of strength in depth when it comes to big-game experience is something Germnay lost with the retirements of Lahm, Schweinsteiger and Klose. That Löw is not short in any position for candidates to replace them shows you his strong hand.

England do not possess the same strength in depth as Germany just yet. It could, although, benefit England in the same way that it has heped tonight's opposition in lowering expectations for next summer.

Article uploaded for review and discussion purposes only.

Löw: "This team plays at the highest level", 15.11.2017

It was a fiery encounter to finish off the year. Lars Stindl rescued Germany’s unbeaten record in 2017 with an equaliser in the last minute to make it 2-2 against France. In an interview with DFB.de, head coach Joachim Löw gave his verdict on the team’s year, talked about Mario Götze’s comeback and what Germany need to work on before Russia 2018.

DFB.de: Mister Löw, are you pleased with the end to the year?

Joachim Löw: We can be very pleased with the winter international break. It was a gripping match, and that’s exactly what you’re hoping for as a head coach. Along with the first game against England, these are the types of tests we wanted – both taught us a lot. It was great character to come from behind twice. We didn’t give up.

DFB.de: How important was it to not end on a defeat?

Löw: The result wasn’t the most important thing. Of course, it gives us a good feeling to get the draw, but overall we can be very pleased with how the year has gone. I’m completely relaxed now – there won’t be any sleepless nights for me!

DFB.de: What do you need to work on?

Löw: There’s always work to do. Even after a great year, we need to make improvements. We could’ve used space on the field better and we could’ve been more organised and compact defensively. These are things we’ll fine-tune during our training camp. The team give me plenty to think about, but I’m not worried!

DFB.de: What message did you leave the players with?

Löw: I told them what we’re expecting in the World Cup. The players have to continue the season in the same vein if we want to be successful in Russia, but they all know what they have to do and what’s expected of them.

DFB.de: Why are you optimistic going into this World Cup year?

Löw: We’ve established a very strong base from which to develop from. We know what we can do, and so I’m not worried about the build-up. The team play football at the highest level, but of course you also need to be strong mentally to do well at a World Cup. Every team will be looking to trip us up. Some serious challenges await us and we have to be ready for that.

DFB.de: Mario Götze made his comeback for the national team after a year out. What level is he playing at now?

Löw: He’s on the right track. Mario’s moving well and looking good physically. He needs a few more games to get back to his highest level but he’s got a tough year behind him. His pass leading to Stindl’s goal was a lovely moment.

DFB.de: How are you feeling ahead of the World Cup group stages draw in Moscow on December 1st?

Löw: You always go into these draws with a certain amount of nervousness. Afterwards, you can start preparing for your opponents and we’ll also decide which of the two training camp locations we choose.

15 November 2017
Originally on dfb.de. Uploaded here to prevent loss once moved on or removed from that site.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Löw: "Trapp will start in goal against France", 13.11.2017

Joachim Löw talked about his starting formation a day ahead of Tuesday’s friendly against France (20:45 CET). DFB.de listened in.

Joachim Löw on…

the starting XI: Kevin Trapp will start in goal, and I can also say that Sami Khedira and Toni Kroos will be in the line-up from the first whistle. We’ll make some changes at half-time, but I will wait to the final training session to decide who comes on. There will be substitutions in a few positions.

Kevin Trapp starting: We’ve switched it up a lot in the past six months. Kevin's always been in and around the team since Manuel Neuer’s injury, and he played very well against Denmark in the run-up to the Confederations Cup. Marc-André ter Stegen and Bernd Leno have also played. Kevin’s made a good impression in training; he knows the French players well. We feel good about giving him the nod on Tuesday. We trust him – he’s a very good goalkeeper.

on the team’s goals against France: These November fixtures against real quality are a good barometer for us. We want to try out a few things in these games. It’s a different proposition to the England game. France are incredibly strong offensively and have a lot of midfielders and strikers who are at the top of the game. They will be more dangerous going forward than England and we need to be ready for that. We also want to give more on the attacking front, too.

respect for les bleus: The French team have a diverse array of attacking talent. They have a lot of options – the head coach has played a big role in getting the team to where they are now. It’s positive that Didier Deschamps has been manager for such a long time. France were good in 2014, even better in 2016 and now are stronger again and I attribute much of that development to Deschamps. They also have a brilliant youth system.

potential revenge for the European Championship loss: It’s not about getting revenge for me. You can’t change that result. It’ll be a testing game for both sides, but I’m not expecting France to put all their cards out on the table. Both teams are in a position to start fine-tuning. We need players who will be concentrated and really up for it. Tempo and emotion will be important.

the development of Leroy Sané: I visited him a few weeks ago in England. Players like Leroy can make the difference in a match. He’s developed physically since moving to the Premier League and is now playing regularly for Manchester City. That’s improved his standing in the national team. His football style can be very important for us.

security after the terrorist attack in 2015: This is an ongoing problem and is frequently talked about. That was an experience we don’t want to go through again. Time softens the memory and I think the situation has since stabilised. I feel safe and have complete trust in the security teams.

the lack of regeneration time in a World Cup year: The winter break is shorter in a World Cup year, but that doesn’t change our preparation. The load on the players is high – they’re playing every three to four days. You’ve definitely got to be careful and we make sure to rest players when they need it. Winning is not the most important thing for me. It’s about learning from our mistakes and improving. When you make three to five changes in the team, sometimes there isn’t enough time to completely gel in training. We don’t mind mistakes, but we need to learn from them.

13 November 2017
Originally on dfb.de. Uploaded here to prevent loss once moved on or removed from that site. Germany’s 2017: Tomorrow’s game will conclude a long year. Remember, we also had the Confederations Cup in the summer. The year has gone as planned – no losses and World Cup qualification completed successfully. It’s all gone very satisfactorily so far.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Löw: "We can't rule any players out yet", 09.10.2017

Ten games, 30 points – Germany have qualified for the 2018 World Cup in impeccable style. Joachim Löw’s men rounded off the perfect campaign with a 5-1 win over Azerbaijan. We spoke to the DFB-Team manager about the difficult start in Kaiserslautern, the potential role as World Cup favourites and the growing competition within the squad.

Question: A 5-1 win against Azerbaijan to round off the qualifying campaign. What are your thoughts on the game?

Joachim Löw: First of all, I’d like to say a big well done to all the players who featured in our qualifying campaign. Ten wins from ten games prove that the team constantly kept up the desire and concentration. That cannot be taken for granted.

Question: You can’t be pleased with the first half against Azerbaijan, though. What was the problem then?

Löw: It was a tough start. We haven’t played with this set-up before, and that was noticeable to begin with. There were a lot of technical mistakes made as well. We had a lot of young players on the pitch who need a bit more time. The second half was good. We started playing the way we needed to, and the goals came thick and fast.

Question: Do you now go to the World Cup as favourites?

Löw: You’d be mistaken in seeing this qualifying campaign as a benchmark. Sure, it was good, it was a top performance. But the opponents at the World Cup finals will be of a completely different calibre. So we shouldn’t get carried away. The players need to prepare in a way that will mean they are ready and in top form this summer.

Question: The next four fixtures are against top teams. Will you be experimenting with players or is it time for the first team to settle?

Löw: We’ll have to look at the situation in November. Tournament preparations begin in May. I will be trying out the odd thing, but we’ve got a strong foundation to build on.

Question: You used a total of 37 players in qualification, not even including Marco Reus. Will your World Cup squad be made up of these players or is the door still open for other players?

Löw: The door is open. It’s still several months away. We will be watching individual performances very closely. There is no reason to write any players off yet. Löw: Süle has some muscle problems; the substitution was a precaution. It looked a bit worse for Mustafi. He seems to have torn his muscle fibre.

8 October 2017
Originally on dfb.de. Uploaded here to prevent loss once moved on or removed from that site.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Löw: "Our level of consistency is once in a lifetime", 07.10.2017

The end of the World Cup qualifiers is upon us. Sunday’s game in Kaiserslautern (20:45 CEST) sees Germany host Azerbaijan in game number ten. Head coach Joachim Löw and Die Mannschaft midfielder Leon Goretzka spoke about the qualifying campaign, the team for Sunday and the 2018 World Cup at today’s pre-match press conference.

Joachim Löw on...

...World Cup qualifying: We can be thoroughly satisfied. I thought the way the team went about their task right from the off, undoing Northern Ireland’s game plan straightaway, was very impressive. Nevertheless, qualifying isn’t over yet and we want to win our tenth game as well against Azerbaijan – that has to be the goal tomorrow.

...his team: There will be one or two changes. We’ve had a chat with the goalkeepers and Bernd Leno will start tomorrow. Emre Can will also start in defensive midfield, and I’m planning on giving Leroy Sané a chance up top as well. I gave the team some time off yesterday to unwind a little. Even though we won’t be quite as in tune as in previous matches, we’ll still be looking to put Azerbaijan under pressure early on.

...the 2018 World Cup: We’ve been thinking about Russia for some time. We’ll have to wait and see what the draw brings. After that, we’ll begin looking for friendly opponents. We won the tournament in Brazil by working as a team, and that’s what we’ll need to do again. We need to be just as hungry if we’re going to win. Only we as defending champions have something to lose, which doesn’t exactly make things any easier.

...comparisons to the 2014 World Cup: Our team has been one of the world’s best for many years now – this level of consistency is once in a lifetime. No matter who we play, we’re capable of winning comfortably, and that shows you just how much quality this team has. Marco Reus got injured in the final game before the tournament in 2014, and Sami Khedira had spent six months out before it. It threw us a little and we had to use the build-up to work things out. As things currently stand, we’re top of the world rankings because of what we’ve done in recent years. That doesn’t play any role next year though. It’s important to have a good preparation period, to have top players in form and for everyone to go into the tournament with the right mindset, ready to go above and beyond.

...Manuel Neuer’s injury: We’ll have to see how it develops. I hope that he can return to training as soon as possible, so then he can be back at his best in two or three months. He is very important for us. However, Marc-André ter Stegen has proven to be a solid alternative; he’s very composed and gets the job done. If you were going to put a goalkeeper after Manuel Neuer, it has to be ter Stegen. He has our full backing, as do Bernd Leno and Kevin Trapp.

Leon Goretzka on…

...his role: I’m still growing into it. I’m very much at the beginning of my development; there’s still a lot for me to learn and experience.

...the 2018 World Cup in Russia: It’s in the back of everyone’s minds. We’re all hoping to impress the boss with our performances. Every game is an opportunity to stake your claim and find some form.

7 October 2017
Originally on dfb.de. Uploaded here to prevent loss once moved on or removed from that site.