6 June ~ The majority of the 2010 German World Cup squad is under the age of 25. There are just two central midfielders, one never far away from suspension and the other an injury-prone rookie – plus half a dozen wide players all capable of nutmegging an opponent but not any good at defending. A forward line led by three strikers who all promised great things in 2007 and are now incapable of hitting the target. It's obvious who will get the blame for this. Fingers are already being pointed at Joachim "Jogi" Löw, erstwhile assistant of Jürgen Klinsmann, promoted to manager on the strength of the showing at the 2006 World Cup. Open criticism is still muted, but is expected to burst out with a vengeance come late June.
Jogi Löw won't be able to count on an abundance of goodwill. Neither the national media nor the football establishment are taken with him. He doesn't even seem to get on with his fellow managers – Löw's stream of dismissive comments lamenting a sub-standard level of coaching in the Bundesliga probably hasn't helped. Particularly in light of the fact, that (prior to his involvement with the national side) Löw himself hadn't had an exceptional managerial career, and basically owed his gig as Klinsmann's assistant to the lucky circumstance that the two of them happened to be on the same coaching diploma course.
Nobody would deny that Löw is a very astute tactician. Indeed, he has often proven to be more than capable of coming up with a well thought-out game plan. Unfortunately, Löw has shown himself unable to work round his own preconceived notions if events on the pitch proceed differently than he expected. Anyone who had believed that Löw knows what he is doing found Euro 2008 a rude awakening. When reality (or, at least Croatia, Turkey and Spain) refused to abide by Löw's plans, he was cut a confused and perplexed figure, albeit one who managed to ride his luck Domenech-style as far as the final.
Since then, two things have happened. Löw had a major fallout with skipper Michael Ballack and other experienced players and, at the same time, became ever more convinced that future success can only be achieved if raw young talent is shaped into his preferred system. In fairness, Löw openly admits that he doesn't really care about minor details like the chosen players' league form or the team's recent results – everything is supposed to suddenly come out well in the World Cup itself. Not that everybody trusts him. After two months of trying to negotiate a contract extension, the German Football Federation decided to cancel any further talks, leaking to the media that Löw's demands were so excessively greedy that he wasn't worth keeping. Consequently, Löw will be a free agent after the World Cup.
Alas, even such a strong vote of no confidence didn't induce Löw to do the decent thing. But nevertheless, there might be a tiny glimmer of hope. After all, it's not that our youngsters lack talent, maybe everything will suddenly click into place and the team will waltz away with the trophy. Jogi will be then be able to sort out contract offers from all the top European clubs while Germany will be in mourning for not having recognised and properly rewarded the coach's genius. Right now it's safe to say that the vast majority predict that South Africa will turn out to be a case of the emperor's new clothes. Peter Schimkat