Joachim Löw; famous the world over for attacking football, dodgy haircuts and odd hygiene habits. A look at the stats of the German managers career should firmly place Löw among the all time footballing greats. A look at his recent results however would tell a very different story.
Nobody can question that Löw and Germany are in trouble. Once the golden boys of international football, the wheels have well and truly come off for the German National Team. Due to a mix of ageing stars, tired tactics and a failure to adapt, Löw’s legacy could be in danger. The German stalwart announced his intention to step down from the national team following the UEFA European Championships in 2021.
With this in mind we thought it would be a great idea to go back through the enigmatic Germans career. From mediocre beginnings as a player, through a meteoric rise to prominence, and ending in his recent fall from grace. We’ll go through it all in the blog below, with custom football infographic use to help visualise the information.
Historical German Dominance
Football, (or soccer as some will insist on calling it,) is unquestionably the biggest sport in the world. The World Cup final regularly is viewed by over a billion people. In a sport this big, Germany have always been one of the real heavy hitters.
Over the last 100 years the German team has been a constant presence and threat at international football competitions. In a history that includes 4 world cups and 3 european championships, Germany have produced some of football’s greatest players and managers. When it comes to technical skill few countries come close to some of the superstars produced by Germany.
The German Football Team hall of fame is full of big names and so when Joachim Löw was handed the top job in 2008, many were confused and sceptical. To many outside of Germany, Löw seemed to come out of nowhere. Who was he? Where did he come from? What results earned him the top job of one of world football’s most iconic football teams?
The Humble Beginnings of Joachim Löw
As a player, it can safely be said that Joachim Löw didn’t set the world on fire. For his beginnings we must go back to a time of dodgy moustaches, tight shorts and baggy jerseys. Low earned his spurs as a centre forward in the second division of German football at SC Freiburg in 1978. Throughout a playing career lasting around 17 years, Löw would struggle to establish himself as a first team player in the upper leagues.
In the second division however, he performed admirably, especially with SC Freiburg, a club he would return to twice over his career.
As first team opportunities fizzled out, Löw concluded his career in Switzerland. As it became obvious that Löw’s playing career was on the decline, his obvious talent for tactics became apparent. This talent allowed him to finish his playing career as a player-manager in the Swiss league. Resulting in vital experience for the next chapter in Joachim Löw’s career.
|Germany (Head Coach)||2006-|
The next step in the career of Joachim Löw was an unlikely one, with his appointment as assistant coach at VfB Stuttgart in the 1995-1996 season. This was by no means a small step. VfB Stuttgart have long been considered a top team in the Bundesliga, and Löw now had an opportunity to thrive.
After just one year, Rolf Fringer, the Stuttgart head coach, left the club for the Swiss National team. Joachim Löw was now thrust into head position at one of Germany’s most famous clubs. Despite Löw’s inexperience, under his leadership, Stuttgart saw some success. Finishing fourth in the Bundesliga and claiming some scalps in the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup. The team even managed a trophy, winning the DfB Pokal in 1998. Löw left the club following the cup success with a record of 46 wins, 20 draws and 23 losses.
This was unquestionably a successful period for Löw. World Football began to sit up and take notice which is why the next few years dropped into obscurity. Bouncing around clubs in Germany and Turkey, the German manager struggled to recapture his form at VfB Stuttgart. He did however find success in the less competitive Austrian league, winning the 2001-2002 Austrian Bundesliga Title with Tirol Innsbruck. Following financial difficulties however the club was forced to declare bankruptcy and once again, Löw was unemployed.
Following a brief stint at Austrian Bundesliga Club Austria Wien he received the biggest call up of his career so far; assistant manager to the German National Team under the legendary Jurgen Klinsmann.
A Crash Course in National Team Management
Managing a national team as an assistant is a big step up for any manager, and for a relatively unknown manager like Joachim Löw, this goes doubly.
Klinsmann and Löw had met years earlier at a coaching school and both shared a philosophy focused on attacking football. The next major competition and first test for the pairing of Klinsmann and Low was the 2006 World Cup in which Germany would be hosts.
The two had inherited a German side wracked with issues. Germany entered the tournament ranked just #22 in the Fifa World Rankings. Even Jurgen Klinnsman, a national hero and deserving of his own blog, could not dissuade the doubters.
Which is why what happened next was such a shock. Klinsmann and Löw brought an attacking style to the German team that led to many outlets declaring Germany to be the most exciting team of the tournament. With goals coming from defenders, midfielders and attackers the German team outscored every other team in the tournament and despite bowing out in the semi finals they remained the tournament top scorers. They may not have won but nobody could ignore the direction Germany seemed to be moving in.
Head Coach Joachim Löw
In 2008 Klinnsman made the decision not to renew his contract with the national team and Joachim Low received the call up to the top job. His introduction to the world stage would be the 2008 UEFA European Championships. The qualifying stages had already focused the eyes of the world on the German as he opened his account as head coach with a 5 game win streak. The best opening performance for a head coach in German footballing history.
Following qualification was the competition itself. If you are lucky enough to have watched the 2008 euros you will remember a tournament marked by explosive football. Teams like Spain, Germany and Turkey put in some incredible performances and some memorable matches occurred throughout.
Joachim Low managed to take his team right to the finals where they were unfortunately defeated by possibly the strongest side in the world at that time, Spain.
The dominance of the Spanish side would be apparent also at the 2010 World Cup. That isn’t to say that the German team didn’t perform admirably. Despite fielding the second youngest team in the tournament, Germany achieved a third place finish with some of the best games of the tournament, including a 4-1 thrashing of England.
By the time of the 2012 UEFA European championships, it was clear to all that Germany deserved attention and respect. They topped their qualification group undefeated and had some memorable victories on their path to the semi finals where they suffered a 2-1 loss to Italy.
World Cup Champions 2014
The 2014 World Cup Campaign was undoubtedly the crowning achievement of Joachim Löw’s career. The tournament held in Brazil featured some of the greatest players to ever grace the field, and despite the strength of the German side, they had their work cut out for them.
An early 4-0 rout of Portugal in the group stages suggested we were in for a special tournament from the German side. Although in the elimination rounds there were some tense games and last-gasp winners the side showed their quality throughout. Löw led Germany to face their biggest challenge in the semi finals, a match with hosts and favourites to win, Brazil.
Many predicted the match to be a close run event. The Brazil squad featured seasoned World Cup veterans and top young prospects and had a home soil advantage. Unfortunately for Brazil, the match would become possibly the most famous game in World Cup history.
An attacking masterclass from Germany led to a 7-1 annihilation of hosts Brazil in some of the most iconic scenes in world football. Riots broke out in sections of the stands, players broke down in tears on the pitch and Germany coasted through to face Argentina in the finals.
Following a tight game between two sides who seemed evenly matched, the Germans finally broke through the Argentinian defences in the 23rd minute of extra time.
Löw had taken a relatively unsuccessful German team and forged them into champions over his 6 years in charge. Germany were back at the pinnacle of elite football with Löw at the helm.
This wasn’t Löw’s only contribution to Germany’s trophy cabinet however. The 2017 Confederations World Cup would be the last time the competition would be held, and Germany have the honour of being remembered as the contests last ever champions.
Despite this victory the team had definite signs of ageing. Löw insisted on using tactics that seemed to outsiders to be outdated.
Joachim Löw in Decline
Löw has announced recently that he intends to step down from the top job following the upcoming UEFA European Championships in 2021. Surprisingly for such a successful manager, the initial reaction wasn’t so much “Why?” as it was “Why have you taken so long?”
What has led to this? A look at the names on the German team sheet suggest a team that should be challenging for trophies, and yet their recent results have been nothing short of embarrassing. The fault unfortunately stops with the man in the top chair.
Despite his past services to the team, a managers popularity will always be fickle. The results the team have suffered in recent years have been confirmation that Joachim Löw needs a clean break from the team he has helmed for 13 years.
First and foremost, Germany failed to even make it out of their group at the 2018 World Cup. Considering the quality in the team and the apparent ease of their group this was probably the key shock of the tournament. The last time a German team hadn’t made it out of their group was 1938!
Had this been a one off, it wouldn’t have raised many eyebrows. Unfortunately in the case of Joachim Löw, it was only the beginning.
A heavy 6-0 defeat against Spain provoked outrage, and is seen by many to be the end of Joachim Löw’s career as Germany head coach.
Whilst not as crushing numerically, the recent defeat in the World Cup qualifiers against minnows North Macedonia has caused the most problems. As a result of the 2-1 defeat, Germany have failed to qualify for a World Cup for only the third time in their history.
What’s Next for German Football?
With the announcement comes the obvious question, who will replace the enigmatic manager? Germany has no shortage of world class coaches to choose from, the only question is would they answer the call?
Amongst the names bandied about the press are figures like Jürgen Klopp, Stefan Kuntz, Oliver Bierhoff and Hansi Flick. Whilst any one of these managers is fantastically qualified, it’s hard to imagine the German team without the man who has led them for so long.
Whilst in the current climate it’s easy to dismiss Joachim Löw, the statistics cannot be ignored. He undoubtedly deserves to be numbered amongst the best German managers of all time. No that isn’t an exaggeration.
To prove this, we need only compare him to another German legend. Helmut Schön is one of the most iconic managers of all time. Presiding over a golden age of German football, he is rightfully regarded as a legend of the game. So how does Löw stack up against this footballing giant? See for yourself.
That’s right! in almost every category Löw is statistically the better manager. Whilst there are obviously other circumstances, this should display the reality of Joachim Löw’s career at Germany. Whilst his odd habits and mannerisms are sometimes worthy of ridicule, the statistics and teams he has built certainly are not.