RIO DE JANEIRO:
Joachim Loew has again saved Germany’s best until the World Cup finals with the 54-year-old poised to finally claim his first major title in Brazil.
Having been appointed Jurgen Klinsmann’s assistant in 2004 before becoming head coach in 2006, Germany have reached at least the semi-finals of all five major tournaments during his decade involved.
“Everyone changes over ten years, you gain experiences, you have triumph and defeats, but what he has preserved is a clear-cut philosophy,” said captain Philipp Lahm, who has been with Loew every step of the way.
“He addresses issues which need looking at early on and leaves nothing to chance.”
Loew took the Germans to the Euro 2008 final where they lost to a Spanish side at the start of a golden era.
Despite fielding one of the youngest squads at the 2010 World Cup, Loew’s young guns hammered Australia, England and Argentina in South Africa.
Spain again ended the Germans run to the final, but this time a third-place finish failed to satisfy a title-hungry nation.
Despite steering Germany to a perfect set of 10 wins to qualify for Euro 2012, Loew started being criticised after losing to Italy in the semi-finals.
More grumblings followed when Loew copied Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola in switching captain Lahm from right-back to midfield this season.
The mutterings grew louder when Germany’s final World Cup squad was announced. ‘Home before the semi-finals’ was the general verdict from disgruntled fans.
Fast-forward five weeks, and only Argentina stands in the way of Loew winning the World Cup title at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana Stadium on Sunday.
A fourth World Cup title victory will elevate Loew to ‘football god’ status enjoyed in Germany by Franz Beckenbauer (1990), Helmut Schoen (1974) and Sepp Herberger (1954).
Humble Sabella leads Argentina to the promised land
Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella’s agent Eugenio Lopez confirmed on Friday that Sunday’s final against Germany will almost certainly be his last game in charge of Argentina no matter the outcome.
His final task will be to succeed where the legendary Diego Maradona failed in a 4-0 thrashing by the Germans in the quarter-finals in South Africa.
Buenos Aires sports daily Ole once described him as the antithesis to Maradona; an understated and humble coach with a meticulous eye for tactical details.
At the start of the tournament, he was looked upon as merely a facilitator for the squad’s leading players, most notably Lionel Messi, after bowing to the demands of the four-time World Player of the Year to drop a 5-3-2 formation after just 45 minutes of the opening game against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
However, he has still managed to impose the control that he craves.
He has admitted to preferring smart, hardworking players to those with more technical ability but little game intelligence.
That has been shown in his preference for Lucas Biglia over Fernando Gago in the last two games and his decision to leave the creative talents of Ever Banega and Jose Sosa out of the 23-man squad altogether.
Those decisions weren’t the ones that caused controversy in Argentina, though, as it was national hero Carlos Tevez’s exclusion that dominated debate for months leading up to the World Cup.
However, Sabella’s fear that Tevez’s inclusion would unbalance the dynamic within the squad has been vindicated.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2014.
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