Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 8th 2014 Contents 9
Joachim Loew has the best record of all Germany
coaches, yet his team has not won a title in the
eight years he has been in charge.
Germany's habit of stumbling at the last or next-to-last
step under Loew's guidance has raised questions whether
he has what it takes to lead Germany at the World Cup and
perhaps win the title.
The German football federation thinks so --- it has ex-
tended his contract through the 2016 European Champi-
While the football-crazy nation always expects Germany
to come home as champion, more sober voices say Ger-
many will have a hard time winning the title against such
teams as Brazil and Argentina.
Loew's record of 70 wins in 102 Germany matches --- a 68
percent winning percentage --- along with 15 defeats, masks
the fact that he's had a rather undistinguished record at
club level, both as coach and player.
But since he took over from his friend Juergen Klinsmann
after the 2006 World Cup, Loew has fashioned Germany
into one of the most exciting teams in the world.
The only thing missing are the titles --- Germany's last
came at the 1996 European Championship.
The 54-year-old Loew has transformed Germany by rely-
ing on young players who have gone through the country's
Germany started playing with flair rarely associated with
the previous teams, whose trademark was discipline, hard
work and physical strength. He prefers to play with one
striker, but has also used "false nines."
Germany lost to Spain in the Euro 2008 final and again in
the semifinals of the 2010 World Cup. As the nation ex-
pected Germany to finally beat Spain at Euro 2012, Loew's
team was stunned by old nemesis Italy in the semifinals.
Loew took a lot of heat after that loss, and he took a long
time to acknowledge that he had used the wrong tactics
and wrong players.
He also watched helplessly from the touchline as Germany
squandered a 4-0 lead against Sweden in a qualifier to set-
tle for a 4-4 draw. Loew apparently had no reply for his
team unravelling on the field.
Manuel Neuer, Per Mertesacker, Toni Kroos. Marcell Jansen,
Sami Khedira and Jerome Boateng. Foreground from left:
Philipp Lahm, Thomas Mueller, Andre Schuerrle, Bastian Schwe-
insteiger and Mesut Ozil. (AP Photo)
Argentina has enough firepower to shat-
ter any defense at the World Cup.
With players like Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain,
Angel Di Maria and Sergio Aguero, Argentina's
attack is second to none. What other team could
afford to leave Carlos Tevez, the top scorer for
Italian champion Juventus this season, out of its
At the back it's a different story. Goalkeeper
Sergio Romero isn't even a regular starter for his
French club Monaco, and the defenders in front
of him aren't as awe-inspiring as the men up
Coach Alejandro Sabella consistently relies on
fullbacks Pablo Zabaleta and Marcos Rojo but
rarely fields the same central defenders two
games in a row. Ezequiel Garay, Federico Fernan-
dez, Jose Maria Basanta, Hugo Campagnaro and
Fabricico Coloccini have been paired up in a vari-
ety of constellations in recent games.
When Sabella announced his provisional World
Cup squad this month he surprised many by
adding another central defender: 33-year-old
Martin Demichelis who's coming off a strong
season with Manchester City but hasn't played
for Argentina since 2011.
The relative weakness of the defense showed
in South American qualifying. Led by Messi and
Higuain, Argentina scored 35 goals in 16 games,
well ahead of any other team in the group. But it
conceded 15 goals, two more than second-placed
Colombia and just one fewer than Ecuador,
which placed fourth.
While that was no disaster, it did raise ques-
tions over how Argentina will deal with tougher
competition in Brazil.
Argentina's success also depends on Messi,
the four-time world player of the year.
A series of injuries last year raised some
doubts about his fitness, but he returned to fa-
miliar goal-scoring form for Barcelona this year.
Despite Messi's wealth of club titles and indi-
vidual accolades, some say he needs to win the
World Cup with Argentina to cement his place
among all-time greats such as Diego Maradona
Argentina has been World Cup champion twice,
but not since Maradona lifted the trophy in Mex-
ico in 1986. With a range of players at or nearing
the peak of their careers, this could be the year
of the Albiceleste, currently seventh in FIFA's
Jose Basanta, Sergio Romero, Fabricio Coloccini, Hugo
Campagnaro and Fernando Gago. Foreground from
left: Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria, Sergio Aguero,
Pablo Zabaleta, Lucas Biglia and Rodrigo Palacio. (AP
France failed to win a game four years
ago in South Africa and scored only one
goal. This time it stands a good chance
of winning Group E ahead of Switzer-
land, Ecuador and Honduras, and avoid-
ing a possible second-round encounter
The current side looks far more cohesive and
team spirit has genuinely been restored under
coach Didier Deschamps, who has players ap-
proaching peak form.
Striker Karim Benzema is finally fulfilling his
potential and was superb for Real Madrid to-
ward the end of the season, while 21-year-old
Paul Pogba is one of the most highly coveted
midfielders in world football. Add the creative
spark of Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery,
the tenacious midfield tackling of Blaise Matuidi
and the crisp passing of Yohan Cabaye and
France has enough quality to threaten most
Left back Patrice Evra looks likely to keep his
place, although that seems to be more through
lack of competition for places rather than form,
while the right back slot is between Bacary
Sagna and Mathieu Debuchy.
Eliaquim Mangala is making a late bid to take
one of the center half places but Deschamps is
likely to pick Laurent Koscielny alongside
Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris remains the undis-
puted first choice and team captain.
Eric Abidal, Hugo Lloris, Loic Remy, Raphael
Varane, Paul Pogba and Olivier Giroud. Foreground
from left: Yohan Cabaye, Patrice Evra, Samir Nasri,
Mathieu Debuchy and Franck Ribery. (AP Photo)
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