TODAY, GERMAN MANAGER Jogi Loew was asked about squad moles, whether he was “sexy” and reference was even made to Spiderman — his squad will get an exclusive preview of the new film later tonight.
As such, it was all the more impressive that he managed to stay unwaveringly on message.
Indeed, ahead of what may prove a milestone match for his young team against a country Germany have never beaten in an international tournament, Loew lit the touch paper by supremely reiterating the evolutionary philosophies that drive and propel his squad — not to mention make them so exhilarating to watch.
In terms of setting a tone, this was a masterclass.
“The only thing I strive for is success. It’s the only thing that drives me forward with this team. The only things I want to see are development and success. Everything else, I block out.
“What will be important is whether we play our own game and take our game to the opposition and not vice versa. If we manage to do that, to maintain a high level of concentration, to be solid at the back, if all these factors converge, the maybe with a bit of confidence we will win.
“As for preparations for the Italy match, we watched them play against England and in previous games. Not so long ago, we played them in a friendly and we realised they have undergone a radical change since 2010. I think we know where they stand. They have excellent strengths, lots of qualities. They have performed very well at this tournament.
But we also know where the difficulties are and where they might have problems.”
Loew, of course, was involved with Germany’s last tournament defeat to Italy, in 2006, as assistant manager.
Not surprisingly, a man who firmly believes in creating new realities dismissed this as utterly irrelevant.
“Some of our players were there in 2006. But in football, there’s no way we can make good that defeat in 2006, or turn the tide of events. Forget about that. You can’t relive the past. The past doesn’t play even the slightest role in our preparation. Another stat is that the Germans have never beaten Italy in a major tournament. So what? This has no effect on our young players. They only read about it. It’s not even an issue.”
What is a very important issue for Loew, though, is progress in the game. As he puts it, Germany have “benefitted from the ‘scientification’ of football”.
In pretty much everything he does, Loew tries to bring the game forward and test the potentially flawed old truisms of the past. That, of course, is most evident in his attitude to youth.
“I do not believe in the old cliché of never changing a winning team. If I look at my players, they have so many different abilities I can put in.
“Post-2008, it was visible we had excellent players coming through. It’s good for a team to constantly have to integrate youngsters. That has always been our plan and, even post-2012, we will continue this.
“The philosophy has to stay the same… the bottom line is what we can do to improve it. This is something I believe in, not old football clichés.”
Perhaps along the same lines, Loew also believes it’s futile to try and put a single player on Andrea Pirlo.
“He’s enjoying something of a second wind. I would call him a genius. He takes up excellent positions, he plays excellent passes wherever it hurts the most. We have to try and nip this in the bud, certainly not by man-marking. This would be useless because he drops very deep at times. But we know how he plays. When facing goal, he lobs balls over the defence.
“He will be in our team talk and we will find ways and means to stop him from doing.”
Loew, however, couldn’t stop inevitable questions about the final and a potential rematch with Spain. He did, though, pay compliment to the world and European champions.
“Tomorrow’s semi-final will be a game where it is not clear cut that Spain will win. While they are favourites, they lost to Portugal [in 2010] in a friendly. Even when Portugal lost to us in the group, they were an excellent counter-attacking team. That will hurt the Spaniards a lot.
“Having said all that, Spain remain one of the top nations, even if they haven’t played as spectacularly as many people have expected them to. They have always managed to score and grant so few chances to the opposition. That is what football is about.”
Lastly, Loew dismissed the idea that Germany have an advantage over Italy because of their two days’ extra rest.
“That is something I will not be making an issue of. They played 120 minutes, I give you that. But they will have had four days of regeneration. They didn’t give the impression to me that they will be suffering fatigue. Much to the contrary, England looked very tired. Italy looked fresh.
“I think four days is plenty for pros if they live professional footballers’ lifestyles.”
Given the breadth of his knowledge, Loew would certainly know.