The German national team may have won countless admirers across the globe thanks to their stylish play, but coach Joachim Low remains far from satisfied. At the eagerly anticipated 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, nothing but lifting a first major international title as coach - and the country's fourth World Cup overall - will do.
Low took time out from his preparations to speak to FIFA.com about his coaching philosophy, his emotions and expectations ahead of the impending tournament and his thoughts ahead of a special reunion with Jurgen Klinsmann.
FIFA.com: You are renowned worldwide for your meticulous preparation. To what extent do you believe it is possible to plan for success?
Joachim Low: There are several things you can plan in advance, such as fitness levels, movement and tactics, but you can only plan for success up to a certain point. We can lay the foundations and that increases the probability of achieving something. That's what we were working on so intensely at our training camp in South Tyrol. I'm delighted with the way the players trained, the way they got involved and how they gave their all. In sporting terms it was very good but even the best training camp cannot guarantee success, let alone guarantee that you'll win the World Cup.
You are heading into your fourth major international tournament as head coach. Does that kind of experience give you a greater sense of calm, or does the fact that it is a World Cup still cause a few nerves?
The closer we get to a tournament the calmer I become because I know that we've thought of everything, and I have faith in that. I'm now able to deal with high-pressure situations very well and I even enjoy them actually. I'm looking forward to our warm-up games, to every training session and to everything Brazil has in store for us. Experiencing a World Cup in the world's most football-crazy country is as good as it gets, for the players, coaches and fans.
At South Africa 2010 Germany won admirers the world over thanks to their attractive style of play. How proud are you of having helped create that?
Pride is the wrong word. I'd say it was more a sense of satisfaction and joy. We've driven that development together as a team, even if you're always dependent on the type of players at your disposal as a coach. We're fortunate in that the development has been very good in Germany for several years now and that’s down to the clubs and the work they're doing in their youth academies. The amount of cooperation within German football is exemplary and I'm not so presumptuous as to say that the kind of football the national team plays is solely down to the national team.
How difficult is it to instil a creative, attacking philosophy in your team without neglecting the 'traditional' virtues of fighting spirit and hard running?
It's not difficult at all. The traditional virtues are as relevant now as they’ve always been. We haven't neglected those characteristics but instead we've managed to integrate creativity, fluidity and a joy at playing among the virtues of the national team. If we want to be successful in Brazil we need to combine all of those qualities into our game. The players know that as the majority of them already have experience of big games and tournaments and know what they need to do and how they need to act if they want to rise to such a huge challenge.
Germany have looked defensively vulnerable in recent matches. What needs to be worked on in training prior to the tournament kick-off? How would you assess the current state of your side?
We've analysed all of our games from the last two years very closely. We've lost a bit of speed in our transitional play so obviously we'll be paying special attention to correcting that, but we don't need to change our playing style because we've got a philosophy we're all 100 per cent behind. Part of our preparations involve helping the new players take that philosophy on board. We will of course also take a close look at how we defend, but that's something the whole team must be involved in, not just the back line.
In 2006 you were Jurgen Klinsmann’s assistant at the World Cup on home soil. What special memories do you have of that tournament? And now that Brazil are in the same situation as hosts, will the increased levels of expectations on them be a disadvantage or will the sheer amount of enthusiasm in the country by advantageous to them?
I don't have any specific memories because the overall impression the tournament made on me was so huge and diverse. The tournament was a special experience for everyone; it was an intense, incredible and successful time, right from the Opening Game in Munich through to the emotional highlight of the Match for Third Place and the atmosphere in Stuttgart, as well as the reception we had in Berlin. We were carried through the whole tournament on a wave of enthusiasm. The situation's different for Brazil though, because they are everyone's favourites to win the title. Back then we gave everyone a pleasant surprise and exceeded all expectations. The best Brazil can do is live up to what's expected of them.
You and Jurgen Klinsmann have mutually helped shape each other's careers and you will be reunited on 26 June in Recife when Germany play USA. How does it feel to suddenly be on opposite sides?
It's not the first time it's happened as we faced the same situation on our USA tour last summer, but of course this time there's a lot more at stake. I'm always happy to see Jurgen and we've stayed in close contact. I value his opinion and it's always interesting to hear what he thinks about certain situations and ideas, away from football too. Jurgen is a very good coach with some outstanding qualities. He's such a positive character and is always open, but is meticulous and wants to win above all else. We worked well together as a team and it was an unbelievably eventful and influential period of time. I know that I owe Jurgen a great deal.
Some pundits have predicted the end of tiki-taka, while others are championing the return of a three-man defence. What new tactical trends are you expecting to see in Brazil?
We have our own system and we have faith in it. An essential part of our philosophy is flexibility and that's the trend I'm expecting to see in Brazil. Teams have to be able to vary their tactics now more than at any time in the past. Playing with just a single system isn't enough nowadays.
In a recent interview with DFB.de you stated that Germany "want to win the World Cup". What makes you believe that Germany can lift the title for the first time since 1990, after finishing third at the two most recent editions?
My players give me that belief. I have absolute faith in the abilities of every one of them. I know what we're capable of and I know we've got a chance, but I'm not a prophet and it's not my job to be. Even if I were to promise that we'd win the title that's still no guarantee that we would do so. The only thing I can say is that we want to win the World Cup. We'll give everything and we want to play with heart and passion to give our fans something to cheer about. I can't say we will win the World Cup though.
What kind of atmosphere are you expecting at the tournament?
We're going to a World Cup in a country that defines itself through football more than any other nation. Accordingly, the levels of enthusiasm are huge - I experienced that last year at the Confederations Cup. Football has a kind of primeval power in Brazil. That was overwhelming at the competition last year and will be even stronger at the World Cup. I'm really looking forward to seeing the best players in the world compete at such close quarters and I'm expecting to see football taken to a new level in Brazil. The game constantly evolves, as do players and teams. A World Cup brings the best together and testing yourself against the best is hugely satisfying. Brazil and its wonderful, warm-hearted people will be fantastic hosts.