A player’s international career generally lasts a number of years. However, the same cannot be said of coaches, for whom life is such that a run of bad results can mean you are shown the exit door relatively quickly.
For example, take a look at the most recent FIFA/Cola-Cola World Ranking and you will see that the coaches of the top 20 sides have been in their job for an average of around three years. That list has two exceptions: Uruguay‘s Oscar Tabarez, in charge for 11 years, and Germany’s FIFA World Cup™-winning coach Joachim Low. He began as the national team assistant way back in July 2004 before succeeding Jurgen Klinsmann as head coach after the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany.
Low’s record in the job certainly stands up to scrutiny. He has led Die Nationalmannschaft to a third-placed finish at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa, second place at UEFA EURO 2008 and a glorious, historic triumph at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil. Now he is aiming to guide the three-time European and four-time world champions to an achievement no other Germany coach has managed before him: to lift the FIFA Confederations Cup, which next takes place in Russia this June/July.
“It’s a good tournament, and an important one,” said the 57-year-old in an interview with *FIFA.com, *before reminiscing about Germany’s last participation in the event, on home soil back in the mid-2000s. “We experienced it ourselves in 2005, when a kind of spirit of optimism came over the country.”
Germany came third, a vast improvement on their tournament debut in Mexico in 1999. Back then, they were reigning European champions, but a team that included Lothar Matthaus, Jens Lehmann and a young Michael Ballack were eliminated at the group stage following defeats to Brazil (4-0) and USA (2-0). A 2-0 win over New Zealand was rendered academic.
This time, Low is hoping to go one better, and he had Russia 2018 in mind when he talked about the experience that this year’s FIFA Confederations Cup tournament will bring his team. “It’s important that you prepare the players for what happens at a tournament, like a World Cup, for example. You can get a better idea of a situation,” said Low. "They can get to know the conditions, the atmosphere in the country, the stadiums and the journeys involved. It was like that in Brazil. We, the coaching staff, were there beforehand, although not with the team. But those are important experiences that help you going forward.”
After four straight qualifying wins with 16 goals scored and none conceded, Germany now comfortably lead Group C and have a five-point advantage over second-placed Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan. Qualification for Russia 2018 is firmly in sight for the team captained by Manuel Neuer.
“Only one team can qualify automatically and the others go into a play-off, so we set ourselves the target of dominating the campaign from the start,” added a satisfied Low. “I think we’ve done that well. In 2014, after we became world champions, we had a few difficult moments. A tournament like that saps you in terms of physical and emotional strength. The players only had a short holiday and a brief pre-season, and sometimes it’s the case that teams who go far in a tournament can have some problems getting back into a rhythm. Other countries that don’t compete in those tournaments can relax and recharge the batteries. So from that point of view, it’s not always that easy. But for us, it’s worked out well so far.”
Awaiting Germany in Group B at the FIFA Confederations Cup this summer are Australia (19 June), Chile (22 June) and Cameroon (25 June), and Low hinted that his team would be well motivated. “We’ll take this tournament seriously and be focused, and we’ll aim to achieve the best result we can.” Lifting the trophy aloft for the first time in St Petersburg on 2 July would be to do exactly that.