2014 FIFA World Cup™
Low: The time was ripe
08 Oct 2014
Germany coach Joachim Low has always been a composed and self-confident character, yet in recent weeks the 54-year-old has appeared with an even greater sense of calm, a consequence of winning the long-desired FIFA World Cup™ Trophy he had worked so meticulously towards.
While undoubtedly enjoying being a world champion, Low is now eager to build on that achievement with his squad and the Black Forest native, renowned as a tactical mastermind, already has the next objective in his sights. After captain Philipp Lahm, record goalscorer Miroslav Klose and defensive rock Per Mertesacker all stepped down from international duty, there are a number of positions to fill in the Germany side.
Furthermore, looking ahead to UEFA EURO 2016 in France, he is determined to cement his team’s status as the best in the world by leading them to continental glory too.
At the FIFA/UEFA Conference for National Coaches and Technical Directors in the Russian city of St. Petersburg, Low took time out to discuss Germany’s triumph at Brazil 2014 and the emotions it subsequently stirred up, as well as looking ahead to the future.
You have had an eventful past few weeks. Could you sum up your feelings over the last two and a half months since winning the World Cup at the Maracana?Joachim Low:Of course there was a feeling of immense joy immediately after the final whistle blew. For the first two or three days afterwards you feel like you’re in a daze before it sinks in that you’ve actually won the title. That’s an incredible feeling. And returning home after eight weeks away, you finally get a feel for the impact it all had your compatriots. There were hundreds of thousands of people in the streets in Berlin to welcome us home. That was unbelievable.
What happened after that?
People talk to you about it wherever you go and gradually it dawns on you just how much it affected people emotionally. And with time you also realise that winning a World Cup title is an achievement that will remain for eternity. Now we’re in the record books and it’ll never be forgotten. It’s a great feeling to be able to leave that kind of legacy.
* In sporting terms, when do you feel the side began to develop into what it is now? And what were the key moments along the way?*It was a long, hard journey that started back in 2004 with Jurgen Klinsmann. There were difficult moments accompanied by a lot of criticism, but we systematically continued along our path. We wanted to win a major title again and we asked ourselves what we needed to do to achieve that. In certain areas we worked incredibly meticulously and we were never satisfied if things were only ‘good’. Of course, there were some defining moments too. We lost the EURO 2008 final and were also knocked out in the semi-finals of the 2010 World Cup and EURO 2012. But I always said that our development had constantly moved forwards since 2004 and I was absolutely convinced that we would be able to take the last step, which we did in 2014. The time was ripe and the team was ready.
You may have always been sure you were on the right track but the German public exerted a great deal of pressure on the side to succeed. Do you feel like winning the World Cup was a justification of your work to the public?
Not necessarily, but it does give you a sense of justification within the national set-up, with the coaching staff and the players you work with. We set ourselves new aims every step of the way and constantly wanted to improve. And when you manage to do that and maybe also help individual players reach a higher level, then that’s hugely satisfying as a coach.
After the international retirement of Mertesacker, Klose and Lahm, Germany have lost three key players. How difficult will it be to adapt to their absences?It’s completely normal to have those kinds of changes in national teams after major tournaments and in a way it makes room for younger players to come through. That said, I’ve worked with each of those players for ten years and we have a great deal of trust in each other. We’ve gone through good and bad times together. All three of them were massively important for us in terms of their personalities. They were characters who made a big contribution through their way of interacting in the squad, as well as with the values they took to the field with. In footballing terms there’s no question that losing those three players is a massive blow. Per Mertesacker was a stabilising element in defence, Miro Klose scored a record number of goals and Philipp Lahm consistently played at a world-class level for ten years. We will definitely miss them.
Germany currently boast a wealth of young players who are already performing at a very high level. How much did that affect your decision to extend your contract as national team coach again?We do have a few problems in some positions but we don’t have an endless supply of world-class players, as is often suggested. However, we do have several outstanding talents, that much is true. I simply felt that I still have the motivation to go to EURO 2016 with this team, a side that have already achieved so much and are still very young. A lot of the players haven’t reached their peak yet. We’ve got plenty of young players and others are coming through so I think we all still have a lot of big challenges ahead.
How important to your work are the findings of analytical meetings like the FIFA/UEFA Conference for National Coaches and Technical Directors in St. Petersburg?We also work with statistics and have our own criteria. What do we want to see from our players? For example, for us the total distance a player covers is not all we look at, rather the intensity with which he ran. How many fouls do we commit in a game? How many times do we win the ball back? And how many passes do we make in the final third? There are certain things that are very important to me and that I always take into the next game - and of course into the next few months and the coming two years.
You have already started on the road to France 2016 with a hard-fought 2-1 home victory over Scotland in Dortmund in Germany’s opening European Championship qualifying match. What medium-term conclusions can you draw from that?
Let me put it this way: winning the [World Cup] title was wonderful and it gave us a great deal, but now we start from scratch again. Participating at a World Cup and going all the way to the Final brings its own set of challenges for the period afterwards. The players only have a short pre-season and don’t have much of a break. On top of that there are a few changes in the team and we had five or six players who pulled out due to injury. Those are the problems we’ll be dealing with in the coming weeks. I experienced something similar in 2006 and 2010. After a World Cup, which is draining for the players, there are always times when someone is unavailable for a short time due to injury. With that in mind I’m gearing up to make changes in October and November and we’ll have to find a way to bridge over those months. Towards the end of the qualifying campaign next year I think we can try and get the team into form ahead of the next tournament.
How do you assess Germany’s European Championship qualifying opponents in Group D?
We’ve played against Poland a couple of times already. They’re a team that have fantastic players, and I’m not only talking about Robert Lewandowski and Lukasz Piszczek. A lot of their squad play in the Bundesliga and big leagues around the world. They know our players very well and have plenty of experience. They’re a side in their prime and they’ve made a lot of progress. On top of that, Ireland and Scotland are very powerful teams too. The group is no foregone conclusion. We can get through it, but can’t take anything for granted.
* As difficult as it is to become world champions, Germany are now the side everyone wants to beat. Have you sensed that?*It’s difficult to say. I think sometimes teams do give one or two per cent extra when playing against the reigning world champions. We went from being number two to number one so we’ve got a target on our backs. Having said that however, teams were always highly motivated when playing against Germany anyway. If someone beats Germany during qualifying then it’s always a huge success for that country. That’s something we’ve been used to for many years now.