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Loew´s men on a high as German song remains the same

SoccerNews in European Championships 27 Jun 2008

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“Tonight we showed our winning mentality,” was the simple, yet razor-sharp observation German coach Joachim Loew made after his side somehow cast aside dominating Turks to reach their sixth Euro final.

Those six words have the power to cast a sporting pall of gloom over much of the rest of Europe – and perhaps beyond, because the unassuming Loew has undoubtedly made the most prescient comment of the tournament.

Germany are back.

Former England striker Gary Lineker's comment that “football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win” was a perfect example of the old adage 'many a true word spoken in jest' – as a look at Die Mannschaft's phenomenal record amply demonstrates.

A team which should have been out for the count against a Turkish side which had three times more shots on goal managed unimpressive wins over Poland and Austria and lost to Croatia only to make a huge height advantage count against the Portuguese in the quarters.

They then looked desperately average against the battling injury and suspension-hit Turks.

Sure enough, Loew admitted things did not go entirely to plan for a naturally fluid side which on its day looks like the full flowering of the side which he filled as assistant to predecessor Jurgen Klinsmann helped mould at the 2006 World Cup.

“We didn't perform as we wished. But a lot of teams have lacked a little consistency during this tournament That is true of us but also of the Portuguese, the Dutch and the Croatians.

“We are aware we did not play our best – but we are in the final and showed we can win this kind of match without playing particularly well.”

More than anyone in Germany, Franz Beckenbauer, winner in 1974 as a player and in 1990 as German coach, acts as a critical barometer of opinion on the team and he opined afterwards that the game had left him breathless but also a little concerned.

“It was a real humdinger – I had expected it to turn out rather differently. More (German) domination, a greater readiness to run at them, more risk-taking,” said the Kaiser.

“We made things hard for ourselves.”

German media suggested the Turks had “showed up the limitations of Loew's side.”

But the fact remains – here is a team whose component parts are playing for one another and can win even when it is playing badly, aside from the – essentially academic – Croatian loss aside.

German Football Federation chief Theo Zwanziger acknowledged before the Turkey match that the Klinsmann-Loew partnership had heralded a new era for Germany, who will on Sunday seek to end a 12-year trophy drought going back to the Berti Vogts-led side which landed Euro 96.

“We are not going to budge from the path which we embarked upon with Klinsmann and we must continually improve the conditions so that Joachim Loew has the best possible environment” to work in,” said Zwanziger.

“Bringing on young players and the national team will be our overriding goals,” added Zwanziger, who insisted the DFB would have kept faith with Loew even if they had not got past the group stage.

For some observers in Germany, Loew is still surfing the end of Klinsmann's wave of popular support from their run to the World Cup semis at home two years ago playing rapid, attacking football.

But as Klinsmann said himself “he (Loew) was always much more than an assistant coach to me.”

By securing the Euro '96 trophy Vogts managed to avoid becoming only the second postwar German coach after 1998-2000 flop Erich Ribbeck not to manage at least third place at a major tournament.

That Wembley success marked the start of Germany's worst silverware drought since that bracketed by success in the 1954 World Cup and the 1972 European Championship.

Loew may not yet be spoken of in the same breath as Sepp Herberger, Helmut Schoen, Jupp Derwall, Franz Beckenbauer and Vogts.

Yet he is now a match from glory and as German sports digest Sport Bild noted Thursday: “Germany were bad against Turkey – but they are in the final.

“God really must be a German.”

With three World Cups, three Euros, numerous near-misses and now another final they surely have a case.

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