Euro 2012: Brazil or bust for Joachim Loew?
With a contract until the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, coach Joachim Loew has said Germany has a bright future despite their Euro 2012 semi-final exit at the hands of Italy.
German fans may need more convincing after the Azzurri left Germany’s European ambitions in tatters in Warsaw on Thursday as striker Mario Balotelli tore up the form book with two first-half goals to seal a 2-1 victory.
It means that by the time they go to Brazil – provided they qualify – it will be 18 years since they won a trophy – the Euro ’96 title.
Germany’s 15-match winning run in competitive matches was halted by Italy as midfield stars such as Mesut Ozil and Bastian Schweinsteiger found themselves over-shadowed by Italy’s Andrea Pirlo and Riccardo Montolivo.
“I have to say we’ve had two great years,” said Loew.
“The team has really developed well and we have won 15 games in a row.
“We lost against an incredibly strong Italian team, so there’s not any reason to have any doubts creep in here.”
Having hammered England and Argentina en route to finishing third at the 2010 World Cup, the script was seemingly written for Loew’s team to take the next step and confirm their status as pre-tournament favourites by winning the Kiev final.
With 57 wins, 13 draws and now 13 defeats from his 83 games in charge, Loew has an enviable record, but pressure remains on the 52-year-old to convert Germany’s undeniable potential into final success on the world stage.
While reaching the semi-finals for the fourth consecutive time at a major tournament is no mean achievement, Germany’s mission had always been to bring the Henri Delaunay trophy back to Berlin and Loew’s young team came up short when it mattered most.
Qualification for the 2014 World Cup starts in September and after six years in the job, this is arguably Loew’s last chance to land a major crown.
After convincing wins over Portugal, Holland, Denmark and Greece there were some positive points at Euro 2012.
Borussia Dortmund-bound Marco Reus has confirmed he is one of Germany’s rising stars, while Jerome Boateng has made the right-back berth his own.
With an average age of just over 25, Germany had the youngest team of the 16 at Euro 2012, both Dortmund stars Reus and Bayern Munich’s Boateng will only be 25 at the next World Cup.
On the minus side, few Gunners fans will have been overly impressed by Arsenal-bound Lukas Podolski, who for a player with now over 100 caps shone only occasionally.
Likewise, centre-backs Holger Badstuber and Mats Hummels seemed to have developed a good partnership, until the Italians showed the youngsters they still have much to learn.
As if to prove the point, in one memorable move Hummels was turned by Antonio Cassano who fired a cross in for Balotelli to slip his marker Badstuber and head Italy’s opening goal in Warsaw.
Loew will also rightly come in for some criticism for chopping and changing his team around while Germany’s lack of Plan B was painfully obvious when things went wrong in the first-half against the Azzurri.
While Loew’s bold move to axe Mario Gomez, Thomas Mueller and Podolski paid off in the 4-2 quarter-final win over Greece, the inclusion of Toni Kroos, and the returns of Gomez and Podolski back-fired against Italy.
The strangest choice was Kroos, picked on the right wing at the expense of the impressive Reus, who barely troubled the Italians defence, while Podolski found himself back on the bench after an ineffective first-half.
Likewise, Gomez has undeniable talent, but his lack of consistency, rather than his goal-scoring prowess, has been a feature over the last few years.
Wolfgang Niersbach, the president of the German Football Federation (DFB) has said Loew’s job is safe until after the World Cup.
A friendly against Argentina in Frankfurt is Loew’s next task on August 15 before the first qualifier for Brazil on September 7 against minnows the Faroe Islands in Hanover.
“We need to digest this tournament,” admitted Loew.
“Brazil is still quite a bit beyond us, so in the next few days we won’t be thinking about that.
“We’ve got a very young team so from that perspective I don’t think there will be that many changes.”
Potential and youth are all well and good, but the football-mad German public need to see some silverware if Loew’s reign is not to be regarded as rich on promise, short on delivery.