Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Löw ahead of semi-final: "We’re not finished yet", 07.07.2014

Football is on everyone’s lips in Germany at the moment. The nation is utterly absorbed by events in Brazil and the excitement, expectancy, nervousness and hope are practically tangible. A huge event is just around the corner: Germany are in the World Cup semi-finals against the hosts in Belo Horizonte tomorrow (live on ZDF from 10 pm CET). You’d expect the man in charge to be feeling all these emotions and more, but Joachim Löw is in fact completely relaxed, as his sense of great anticipation leaves no room for pressure and tension.

Tomorrow is the big day. Today, the Germany head coach talks to reporter Steffen Lüdeke in the DFB.de Interview of the Week about his team, the World Cup in Brazil and the game against the hosts.

DFB.de: Joachim Löw, first things first: congratulations on reaching the World Cup semi-finals.

Joachim Löw: Thank you.

DFB.de: My pleasure. Congratulations too on taking top spot in the next FIFA world rankings. What does that mean to you?

Löw: That’s not particularly important to me at the moment. I’m not interested in being top of a list. I’m only interested in winning this tournament. You don’t win anything with facts and figures.

DFB.de: Nevertheless the position in the world rankings comes from good results in the last few years. In 31 competitive games since 2010, i.e. qualifying fixtures and tournament matches, your team has won 28, drawn two and lost just once.

Löw: I’ve not really been aware of the stats but Wolfgang Niersbach pointed it out to me recently. Obviously I’m happy about that as we’ve been able to give people lots of pleasure thanks to our wins and attractive style of play. It’s been like that at all the tournaments. Germany have made it at least as far as the semi-finals at all of the past four World Cups. That says a lot for consistency and continuity and the fact the team has been playing at the highest level for years.

DFB.de: How high do you rate your chances of making it to the Final?

Löw: We all know how strong Brazil are. The hosts were favourites from the start and their players have looked comfortable in that role up to now. The Brazilians showed in last year’s Confederations Cup that the expectation of the people gives them an extra boost. Pressure doesn’t get on top of them and they’ve given the fans what they wanted. That’s great for the whole tournament. It’s good for the hosts to be in the competition for so long. But we’re confident too. Over the course of the tournament we’ve become solid and stable both physically and mentally. We’ll prepare well and certainly give Brazil a game. The chances are even. Little differences will be decisive in seeing who reaches the Final.

DFB.de: Brazil are without Neymar and Thiago Silva. Does that improve the chances for your team?

Löw: Firstly, I feel incredibly sorry for Neymar. He’s a great player and it’s a terrible blow and bad luck that he’s sidelined, for him, his team, and the whole nation. I hope he’s back on the pitch as soon as possible and reacts positively to this setback. We all want see the best players at the World Cup and, as a player, you always want to compete with the best. It’s a pity for Brazil to be missing two of their best players but I think they can make up for it. Setbacks often provide new impetus. Nobody should think the absence of Neymar will make our job easier, quite the opposite. And the suspension of Thiago Silva shows the depth of the Seleção squad. Felipe Scolari can bring in a player like Dante so I don’t think there will be any loss of quality.

DFB.de: It’s not just Brazil who are missing some of their key players. There are a few players sidelined who could have been in your starting eleven, such as Holger Badstuber, Ilkay Gündogan, Mario Gomez and Lars Bender. And then you lost Marco Reus just before the tournament.

Löw: I also feel incredibly sorry for the players who could have been in our squad if they were fit. But there’s no point in thinking about who’s missing and who might have been able to help us. I don’t bother with all that. I’ve every confidence in all the members of the squad here in Brazil and I’m fully focused on these players. They’re incredibly motivated and disciplined and there’s an outstanding team spirit in the camp. It’s a great pleasure working with this group. We’re not done with our joint project yet.

DFB.de: The problem this time round was calling up a number of players to the squad who were not fully fit or who lacked match practice - Sami Khedira after his torn cruciate, Bastian Schweinsteiger after his ankle injury and the recurrent problems with his tendons.

Löw: You always have to balance opportunities and risks. I knew the quality of both players would be very important to us. We knew from the start it would take time to get Sami and Bastian up to speed with the way of playing and level here in Brazil. We had another option with Philipp Lahm playing in midfield. He’s done brilliantly in that position at Bayern. For us, it’s always a matter of weighing up before each game what’s best for the team in a certain situation at a particular time. As coaches we work with the players day-in, day-out on the pitch, we speak to them and watch them. Then we make our decisions.

DFB.de: In the game against Algeria you reacted on 70 minutes by moving Philipp Lahm from midfield to right-back. The captain also played at right-back against France.

Löw: Philipp is an absolutely world class player and versatility and flexibility are two of his main strengths. I’m also happy we’ve got a lot of players who can play in different positions. Jérôme Boateng and Benedikt Höwedes have demonstrated that admirably in defence. It’s obvious we should use these strengths to benefit the team. It’s exactly those characteristics that the coaches and the whole of the squad need if we’re to succeed at this level. Versatility and flexibility have taken us to the last four in the World Cup. And let there be no doubt: we still have other options.

DFB.de: Are you aware of the debate in Germany about what’s the best position for Philipp Lahm?

Löw: Of course, I pick that sort of thing up even though I don’t read that much. But I never let that influence my decision making. It’s normal and understandable for people to talk about it. That’s all part of football. This sport lives from the fact that everybody has something to say and there are so many ways of looking at things. I’m glad the national team is being talked about. Everybody’s entitled to their opinion and it’s fun talking about football. It’s no different for us within the camp. I follow a particular line and I won’t change it to suit public opinion or just to fit in with a certain view. We make changes when we think changes are needed after our impressions from matches and training sessions plus the analysis of how we feel. As I said: we always take into consideration what’s best for the team in a particular situation.

DFB.de: Do you talk to the players about the various options in picking the team?

Löw: Of course, I speak to the players a lot, particularly the senior players. The players have to put our ideas and instructions into practice, they have to identify and believe in it. They need to understand why we adopt a particular approach. Today’s generation are trained to think tactically and they want tactical input. To put it bluntly: my main discussions are obviously with Hansi Flick and Andy Köpke. Oliver Bierhoff also helps out sometimes. But at the end of the day it’s me who makes the decisions. Sometimes I just have to follow my own intuition.

DFB.de: You’ve already competed in a lot of tournaments and prepared for a number of big games. But this is in Brazil, against Brazil. You can’t have experienced a bigger game up to now, surely?

Löw: It is a highlight, something very special and outstanding. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s the same for everybody involved with the German team and I think all of Germany shares that view. One thing is certain: we definitely want to play one more game in Rio at the Maracanã Stadium, on 13 July. We’re not finished yet.

7 July 2014
Originally on dfb.de. Uploaded here to prevent loss once removed from or moved on that site/

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