Joachim Löw (2006-)
“I am not responsible for an individual player, but for an entire team.”- Joachim Löw
Like Berti Vogts in 1990, Joachim Löw was appointed as Nationaltrainer on the crest of a wave. Having basked in the Klinsmann-inspired success of the 2006 World Cup, there would be none of the intense public and media pressure that had plagued his three immediate predecessors. The master tactician and strategist long seen as the real driving force behind the new approach in German football, “Jogi” Löw pledged to press on in making the changes.
Joachim Löw’s professional career as a player had not reached the heights of the likes of a Völler or a Klinsmann, but was solid enough. Having started off at SC Freiburg in 1977, Löw had disappointing seasons with both VfB Stuttgart and Eintracht Frankfurt before returning to his first club for two years which saw him score twenty-five times in sixty-five games. After a season at Karlsruhe SC he moved back for his third stint at the Dreisamstadion before moving to Switzerland where he played for FC Schaffhausen, FC Winterthur and FC Frauenfeld. After what had been a fairly successful if unspectacular playing career spanning some seventeen seasons, Jogi Löw seamlessly moved into coaching by taking up a player-coach role at Frauenfeld.
Löw returned to Germany in 1995 as assistant to Rolf Fringer at Stuttgart, but took the top post when Fringer became coach of the Swiss national team the following year. In what was a fairly successful two-year spell, Löw led VfB to the DFB-Pokal in 1997 and the final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup the following year, where his side lost a close game to Chelsea.
After moving from Stuttgart Löw was coach at a number of clubs both in Germany and abroad; his first move was to Fenerbahçe in Turkey, followed by a short return to Karlsruhe before heading east again and a disappointing spell at Adanaspor. He then left Turkey for Austria, which saw his winning a second trophy as FC Tirol Innsbruck took the league title. Unfortunately for Löw what had looked set to become a promising coaching career at Innsbruck was cut short as the club was declared bankrupt, forcing him to change jobs again and take the helm at FK Austria Wien – after which came the call from Jürgen Klinsmann asking him to become part of the new-look national team setup.
Since turning to coaching at the age of thirty-five, Jogi Löw had quietly and effectively established a reputation as one of the finest tacticians in the game. This had not been lost on Jürgen Klinsmann, who was quick to get Löw on board as part of a hand-picked management team alongside 1996 golden goal hero Oliver Bierhoff. With Klinsmann’s dynamism and Löw’s tactical nouse, things clicked perfectly into place for the Mannschaft in time for the 2006 World Cup finals on home soil; after much navel-gazing by the media, the team slipped into gear and swept into the last four where they stumbled at the death against an Italian side that went on to become world champions.
When Klinsmann resigned following the successful third-place playoff match against Portugal, it was an easy decision for the DFB to appoint Löw as his successor; while Klinsmann had been fêted by the media, it had been made clear from the start that his assistant was the real architect of the team’s success. Like Klinsmann before him, Löw picked an unheralded but well-respected assistant in former Bayern München midfielder Hans-Dieter “Hansi” Flick, with whom he forged a formidable working relationship.
The new coach’s start in the role was nothing short of magnificent. Picking up where he and Klinsmann had left off in Stuttgart against Portugal, Löw started as he meant to go on with five victories in his first five matches – the best-ever start for any new Nationaltrainer. The team went a record 418 minutes until they conceded their first goal under his tenure, and the first defeat against Denmark came only when Löw fielded a very young and inexperienced experimental side. Germany breezed through their qualifying group for Euro 2008 with games to spare, racking up thirty-give goals in their twelve games which included a record 13-0 destruction of minnows San Marino. With qualification assured and the future of German football looking bright again, the Mannschaft went into Euro 2008 in neighbouring Austria and Switzerland as one of the fancied teams.
After overcoming a surprise group stage defeat by Croatia, Germany made it into their first Euro knockout game since 1996 with wins over Poland and co-hosts Austria. It was in the game against the Austrians where the otherwise placid Löw had encountered his first brush with controversy: having become involved in a touchline argument with his Austrian opposite number Josef Hickersberger, both men were sent to the stands, with Löw being banned from the dugout for the quarter-final against the Portugal. Unable to communicate with the team, the coach devised a tactical plan which was expertly managed by his assistant Hansi Flick as the Portuguese were defeated 3-2 in a thrilling game.
It was the same result in the semi-final against surprise package Turkey with Löw back in control, as Phillipp Lahm took the Mannschaft to the final in Vienna with a glorious last-minute strike. They were ultimately defeated in the final by Spain – arguably the best team of the tournament – but could hold their heads up high after what was yet another well-run campaign.
Always the perfectionist, Löw then sought ways to fine-tune things even further in qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. By picking the team based on form rather than reputation, a pool of competitive and highly motivated players began to develop; instead of seeing the coach turn to a reserve cadre of journeymen as has been the case ten years before, an injury was seen as an opportunity by younger players champing at the bit to play in the Schwarz und Weiß. While friendly matches were often used to blood youngsters, the full tactical treatment was applied to the more serious competitive fixtures. In what might have been seen as a tough qualifying group that included a Russian side that had impressed at Euro 2008, Löw and Flick engineered a successful and undefeated campaign.
During the qualifying campaign Löw also displayed another side to his personality and management style: he had made his reputation as man who was open and receptive to ideas, but he soon showed that he also didn’t take any nonsense from his players. While he was happy to provide his squad with more latitude in their thinking on and off the pitch, it was also clear that he was a boss who demanded complete respect from his charges. This was best illustrated by the case involving striker Kevin Kurányi, whose petulant stomp-off after being left on the bench against Russia was met with the ultimate sanction. It didn’t matter to Löw if Kurányi was the Bundesliga’s top goalscorer, the sponsors’ favourite or even the King of Siam – he made it patently clear that there was no place for boat-rockers on his squad.
The World Cup finals in South Africa was to see yet another stunning chapter in this recent story of German football revival. As the tournament drew near and time was approaching for the squad of twenty-three players to be selected, injury struck. And again. And again. With less than a month to go, the squad were dropping like flies, culminating in the injury to midfield lynchpin and skipper Michael Ballack. In what was probably the biggest gamble in the history of German football, Jogi Löw did not look back to fading stars to fill the gaps and instead turned his eye to a raft of younger and less experienced players who previously had been on the fringe of the squad; in what proved to be an inspired piece of man-management, the dynamic Bayern München wingback Phillipp Lahm was named as Spielführer.
Germany entered the tournament with its youngest tournament squad ever, and they responded to any fears that German media and public may have had about their chances with a fearlessness and craft that drew admirers from all parts. In the absence of Ballack, Bastian Schweinsteiger was now bossing the midfield, a role in which he revelled; Miro Klose, whose form had been poor in the Bundesliga, was revitalised by the younger players around him and repaid the coach’s confidence in equalling Gerd Müller’s all-time World Cup goalscoring record; little Phillipp Lahm took to captaining the side like a duck to water.
Then there were the players who were playing their first tournament: playmaker Mesut Özil, who brought both pace and guile to the midfield; Sami Khedira, who brought a mix of intelligence and strength; and then the find of the tournament, Bayern München’s twenty year old winger Thomas Müller, who had started the season on the bench for his club side and ended it by winning both the golden boot and the best young player award.
The team not only almost achieved the impossible, but more crucially displayed a level of spirit and commitment worthy of the great German teams of old; that they were able to blend this with a new-found creativity made Löw’s young side the most watchable team in the tournament. When the opening 4-0 demolition of Australia was followed by an unlucky 1-0 defeat to Serbia, the team bounced back with a disciplined display against Ghana to secure their place in the knockout stage; here they truly came into their own, destroying England 4-1 in the second phase and then steamrollering the much-praised Argentinians 4-0 in a memorable quarter-final.
It was scarcely believeable, but just as in 2006 the end came in the semi-finals – where an impressive Spain side embarked on a successful campaign of strangulation and suffocation.
With sixteen goals from seven games and a second third-place finish in successive tournaments, the face of German football had undergone the second phase of its transformation. The process that had been started by Jürgen Klinsmann had been followed through with both enthusiasm and determination by Jogi Löw – the man in the blue cashmere sweater.
Following the success in South Africa the team went from strength to strength as Löw continued adding to a pool of highly talented young players. The qualifying campaign for the 2012 European Championships in Poland and the Ukraine was a complete success, as the Mannschaft achieved a record ten wins from ten games – racking up thirty-four goals in the process. This was the first time the team had returned a perfect record in a major tournament qualifying group for thirty years, when Jupp Derwall’s side won eight games out of eight in qualifying for the World Cup in 1982.
The Euro 2012 campaign would see the Mannschaft start as one of the tournament favourites, enhancing their reputation with three wins from three in the group phase – the first time any German side had achieved the feat. After an encouraging 4-2 quarter-final victory against outsiders Greece, Löw’s side would ultimately come unstuck in the semi-final against bogey side Italy – in a match that exposed some of the coach’s frailties and ultimately his lack of confidence in his young side. The team had promised much and had look all set to deliver, but it would be one tactical rearrangement too far.
Many other countries would have looked positively on a coach that had reached one final and two semi-finals in three successive international tournaments, but for all Joachim Löw’s success in moulding what is now seen as a fashionably good and dynamic young squad the fact is that a major trophy has remained elusive. The coach’s contract is set to run until the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, and he will be looking to set the record straight.
Up to and including the Euro 2012 semi-final match against Italy in Warsaw on 28th June 2012, Löw had won fifty-seven of his eighty-three matches in charge – a winning record of sixty-nine and a half percent. As things stand, the current coach is – statistically at least – the most successful Nationaltrainer of all time, just ahead of Jupp Derwall who coached the Mannschaft to forty-four wins in sixty-seven matches between 1978 and 1984. It is also fair to say that Löw’s side is a whole lot more exciting and enjoyable to watch.
International Career Record as Player
Tournament Record as Player
Career Record as Coach
First match as coach: 16.08.2006 3-0 (3-0) v Sweden, Gelsenkirchen (B. Schneider 4., Klose 8., 44. / –)
Latest match as coach: 26.03.2013 4-1 (3-0) v Kazakhstan, Nürnberg (Reus 23., 90., Götze 27., Gündoğan 31. / Schmidtgal 46.)
Total matches: 92 (as of 26.03.2013)
Wins: 63 (68.5%)
Draws: 15 (16.3%)
Defeats: 14 (15.2%)
Goals For (goals scored per game): 227 (2.47)
Goals Against (goals conceded per game): 85 (0.91)
Competitive matches: 56
Wins: 44 (78.6%)
Draws: 6 (10.7%)
Defeats: 6 (10.7%)
Goals For (goals scored per game): 153 (2.73)
Goals Against (goals conceded per game): 41 (0.77)
Friendly matches: 36
Wins: 19 (52.8%)
Draws: 9 (25.0%)
Defeats: 8 (22.2%)
Goals For (goals scored per game): 74 (2.06)
Goals Against (goals conceded per game): 41 (1.14)
UEFA European Championships Austria/Switzerland 2008 – Runners-up
FIFA World Cup South Africa 2010 – Third place
UEFA European Championships Poland/Ukraine 2012 – Semi-Finalists