The clinical, efficient and unshakeable Germany were fragile
The Golden Generation might never fulfill their potential. The tabloid newspaper leads with a feature entitled “Why we don’t win trophies anymore”. The national team coach returns home to face an endless torrent of questions over his future and the reasons for defeat.
This is not England, whose routine quarter final exit was this year greeted, uncharacteristically, with gloomy acceptance. This is not even France, where crisis and scandal around the national team are now so predictable that they hardly even merit being labelled as such. This is Germany. Solid, steady Germany. The team who was set to end the reign of Spain as they built methodically on the foundations laid over the the last three major tournaments.
After four games, the dream – as well as the favourites’ tag – was still alive and kicking. Joachim Löw’s side had waltzed through the group of death before dispatching Greece with the ease expected of them. In the words of the “kicker” headline of the morning after, though, “Then came the Italians.”
In the end, the psychological hurdle proved to be the one too many for this excellent Germany side. Faced with the ultimate opportunity to prove themselves, they could not live up to the occasion and, even during their dominant periods, could only faintly emulate the swagger which had carried them through their superior group stages performance. Only Manuel Neuer remained his usual positive self, spending most of the last two minutes in midfield, and making more of an impact there than Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mesut Özil had made for the entire game.
Tactically, Germany were as sound as ever. Technically, they were not so under par. Mentally, though, the clinical, efficient and unshakeable Germany were fragile. And it proved fatal. For Löw, the premature exit was “obviously something for which I take responsibility.”
The questions over the future of the current Bundestrainer were as quick to dissipate as they were to emerge. With Matthias Sammer having left the DFB to become General Manager at Bayern Munich, a potential Löw exit would almost represent a complete, unprecedented, and unnecessary overhaul.
Even without Sammer’s exit, however, any severe cross examination of Löw’s suitability was always going to be the entertainment of the minority. According to “Bild”, the fans’ favourites to replace Sammer include Olli Kahn, Steffen Effenberg and Berti Vogts. Behind Löw, the list of potential names is considerably smaller.
With two years left on his contract, meanwhile, there are few Germany fans who would realistically want Löw replaced, and his plans for the World Cup in Brazil are as positive as ever: “We made a few too many mistakes against Italy,” he said, upon his return last week, “but our ambition remains unbroken.”
After their displays over the last two or three years, no one can doubt their quality and potential. Nor, unless they are extremely pedantic, can they pick too many holes in Löw’s tactical philosophy. Even their global popularity is high, a claim which few German teams of the past have been able to make. Psychologically, however, there is still some work to be done.Tagged in: euro 2012, germany, Italy, Joachim Löw
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