Monday, 7 April 2014

Joachim Löw: "I'm extremely confident", 06.04.2014

In a little over two months’ time, the German national team will begin their campaign in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, which runs from 12 June until 13 July. National team coach Joachim Löw is looking forward to the challenge for several reasons: the tournament is being held in Brazil, a country that lives and breathes football; he knows the quality and mentality of his players; and he knows his team will be as well prepared as possible. While nervous anticipation is building for other teams, Löw is becoming ever more relaxed. met the national coach to discuss the prospect of his team’s final World Cup preparations, nerves, optimism and the World Cup trophy. Mr Löw, final preparations for the World Cup will begin in just a few weeks. How excited are you at the prospect?

Joachim Löw: Extremely excited. I’ve already experienced four major tournaments as an assistant or head coach to the national team, and each one had its own highlights, but the anticipation ahead of Brazil beats everything. I think it’s partly down to the fact that Brazil is such a huge footballing nation. I can think of nothing better than a football World Cup in Brazil. Does that mean you’re even more excited than you were before the 2006 FIFA World Cup?

Löw: Of course, being part of a World Cup in my own country was an absolute highlight, but in hindsight I admit there were a lot of nerves at that time, particularly in the days before the competition began. Everyone still had that friendly defeat in Italy in March in their minds. I only calmed down a little after the opening match. Nowadays I deal with high-pressure situations like that very well – sometimes I even enjoy them. What does that mean?

Löw: The closer the tournament gets, the calmer I become, because I know and I’m confident that we’ve thought of everything. I’m looking forward to the friendly matches, every training session, our time in the South Tyrol and then everything that awaits us in Brazil. We’ll be experiencing the World Cup in a country where football is a bigger part of its identity than anywhere else on the planet, and their enthusiasm for the sport is just as huge, as I experienced last year at the Confederations Cup. The excitement was already overwhelming at the dress rehearsal, and it will get even greater at the World Cup itself. It’s a great privilege to be able to be part of such an event. Do your team feel the same?

Löw: It’s normal and appropriate that the players are still thinking solely about their clubs, whether in the Bundesliga or the Champions League. That’s understandable because the next few weeks will decide the entire season for most of them. Many of my players have a chance for major success now, and the time for success with the national team will come after that. Nevertheless, they can’t avoid the unique allure and fascination the World Cup generates. You notice that when we’re all together. During the friendly against Chile in Stuttgart, I realised the players knew something unique and immense is waiting for them at this summer’s tournament in Brazil. Although your team won that match 1-0, you weren’t satisfied with their performance. How much did the display in Stuttgart unsettle you?

Löw: The game didn’t unsettle me; instead, it gave us a clear indication of where we still need to improve. The standard at every World Cup is unbelievably high. At this point, anyone who doesn’t realise just how strong the South American teams will be in Brazil is beyond held. Chile confirmed this with an impressive display and Colombia are another example, not to mention the usual suspects of Brazil and Argentina. Chile were exactly the opponents we needed ahead of this summer’s competition. They were extremely strong and lively and were technically and tactically impressive, despite playing an away match in Europe in conditions that were unfamiliar for some of their players. It’ll be the other way around at the World Cup. It doesn’t sound as though you’re heading to the tournament with any great optimism.

Löw: That’s not true. Just because other teams are performing well doesn’t mean we can’t perform just as well or even better if everything goes to plan, if everyone gives their all and if we are well aware of the enormous challenge that awaits us in Brazil. Once again, I must stress that this tournament will be extremely physically demanding for all the players, so the players who come with us to Brazil must be in top form and fitness. Before that, there’s the training camp in the Passeier valley. It’s a similar situation to 2012, with Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund’s successes meaning that many of your players will not be available for the start of your World Cup preparations.

Löw: It’s a totally different situation to 2012. What’s the difference?

Löw: We’re much more solid as a team. Although there are some new players coming into the squad, the core players have been around for much longer. As a result, the expectations are different, not least because my players now have much more international experience. The Dortmund players now know how to cope with an international final too. Of course, I’d love to have the entire squad together from day one of our finals preparations, but not if that means my players are coming to me fresh from disappointment with their clubs. I really can’t complain about my players’ success with their clubs. If my players progress to the latter stages of the Champions League, it also means that they have had to prove themselves at the highest level at regular intervals, and that’s great preparation for an elite international tournament like the World Cup. In that case, are you confident that the time you’ll have with the entire squad will be enough to get the team into shape for the World Cup?

Löw: Let’s not cross that bridge until we come to it. If it transpires that some players aren’t up to scratch in areas of their preparations, we’ll find ways to deal with the situation. I’ve got great confidence in my players as well as my entire coaching and support team. We have analysed the 2012 situation, learned from it and drawn our conclusions. And I can promise everyone that we’ll be as well prepared as possible by the time we fly to Brazil. The German U-20 side will act as friendly opponents during the training camp. How did that come about?

Löw: Hansi Flick had this excellent, exciting idea, and there are many upsides to the arrangement. It’s fantastic for the U-20 players to come into contact with the senior side this way, get to know the whole environment and acclimatise to it. I’m certain they’ll benefit from this experience in their later careers. It also strengthens cohesion within the DFB and reinforces the link between the first team and the youth sides. And for us, it’s great to be able to test ourselves against a team that can take particular tactical approaches against us. We usually play against teams from the local region during our training camp, and we’ve had good experiences with that too, but I think it’s more useful for us right now and the DFB in future if we can try things out against a junior national team. Germany has not won the World Cup since 1990. How confident are you that this wait will come to an end on 13 July?

Löw: It’s not my job to predict such things. Even if I were to promise to bring back the trophy, it doesn’t mean we’d be certain to become world champions. All I can say is that we want to win the World Cup; I can’t say we will win the World Cup. But you’d be disappointed if it didn’t work out…

Löw: I haven’t thought about that for even a second. I don’t give time to any negative thoughts ahead of a tournament; instead, I’m going into it with great conviction, confidence and optimism. We might fall short of our target, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we have to feel disappointed about it. For me, the most important thing is that the team give a good account of themselves, both on and off the pitch, and how we represent our country and its 80 million citizens. What are you most looking forward to in Brazil?

Löw: Seeing the best footballers in the world come up against one another in competition. I’m expecting to see football at a whole new level in Brazil. The game is always developing, and the players and teams are developing with it. A World Cup brings together the best in the world, and it’s a great pleasure to be among them.

6 April 2014
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