Jogi being Jogi.
It’s relatively rare for footballers to sound more eloquent at describing the game’s emotional nuances than journalists, but members of the Germany squad have now managed to do so twice in a week.
First there was Per Mertesacker’s instantly meme-worthy interview after the 2-1 win over Algeria. “Would you rather we played beautiful football but got knocked out?” And over the weekend there was Philipp Lahm with an another comment one did not quite expect from this extraordinarily talented, but also extraordinarily PR-trained, “golden generation” of German players: “Playing for another third place isn’t something I need right now. More is required – definitely.”
Both comments summed up a new realism that is more in sync with the mood in German bars and living rooms right now than the Nu jazz-soundtracked feelgood clips transmitted by public broadcasters from the team’s Campo Bahia training camp.
Germany will now play in their fourth consecutive World Cup semi-final, often playing beautiful, stereotype-defying football along the way, but that is no longer something you hear people chatting about at the public screenings around the country. The mood is grimmer, less euphoric.
Even during the 1-0 win over France there were howls of frustrations every time a player misplaced a pass, debates over who should replace Joachim Löw after the tournament whenever the team looked tactically lacking. “It’s as if Löw can no longer please anyone at all,” wrote Alexander Osang in Der Spiegel. “When he played Philipp Lahm in midfield people said he was being stubborn, when he moved him back into defence, as he did against France, people said he didn’t have a spine. If he wins it’s because of the team; if he loses, it’s his fault.”
Osang also pointed out that in the press conference after the France match the only person to congratulate Löw was the Fifa official chairing the session, the only journalist to point out his impressive points-per-game record, a reporter from Sudan.
Löw’s reputation as the tactical mastermind to counterbalance Jürgen Klinsmann’s motivational skills was severely damaged by Euro 2012 semi-final defeat at the hands of Italy. In an open letter addressed to Löw, Die Welt’s Lars Wallrodt on Monday called it “the match in which you betrayed German football” .
The widely held view in Germany is that Löw tinkered too much with his team in that game, trying too hard to adjust Germany to Italy’s strengths. Of course one could argue that he did the same thing again against France last Friday – it’s just that this time, Germany won.
Rather than mark his legacy as a modernist who revolutionised the German game, anything other than a victory in the final on 13 July is likely to cement the reputation of Löw and the generation of Lahm, Schweinsteiger et al as eternal runners-up.
The more optimistic voices in the German media feel confident that the players are more aware of that fact than anybody else. In some previous tournaments Germany had put a new spin on their reputation as a Turniermannschaft – tournament team – not just that they get better as it progresses through the knockout stages, but that they also become more flamboyant – 4–1 against England and 4–0 against Argentina in 2010, 4–2 against Greece in 2012.
This time round, the team started with an emphatic 4–0 demolition of Portugal and a riveting, anarchic 2–2 against Ghana, but have ground out one-goal wins in the last three matches. No longer burdened with representing the avant garde, Germany seem to be rediscovering the old ruthlessly efficient ways. “Like Italy in Germany shirts”, the public broadcaster ARD called it – and for the first time in years, that sounded like a compliment.
I found this article interesting. I'll post the view from Brazil in some time.