Never in recent history has a World Cup final been bigger for a head coach. Unlike most other managers that have taken their national teams to a final, Joachim Löw is a multiple major tournament leader implementing a long-term vision for his national team. Remaking the German style and blending in youth required continuing commitment from the DFL (the German football league). Eight years into the job, Löw’s legacy and future will likely be determined by one match.
Taking a set of young players who had achieved great things together and blending them in with established and accomplished players took a special type of manager. The requirement was that German fans, the media and governing body were patient during this process. This patience was tested following Germany’s unexpected semifinal defeat to Italy at Euro 2012, but could be rewarded handsomely on Sunday in Rio De Janeiro. Should Löw win on Sunday, he could cement himself not only as a legend but stay in the job for many years to come.
Löw has been in the job since 2006, and served as an assistant before that. He hasn’t used a major tournament or qualifying campaign to put himself in the shop window for a club job or resigned after defeats and begun floating from job to job. Simply put, the DFL understands the project for which Löw has been asked to oversee was always going to depend more on continuity and careful planning than panic. The seeming permanence of Löw’s position is a rarity in the international game. He is one of only three managers that was in charge of his side for World Cup qualifying in 2010 that still manages his national team.
It is a stark contrast from the approach England’s FA has taken through the years. In England every major tournament elimination is met with scorn from the media, lots of punditry pontification and ultimately panicky hiring. Managers are expected to get results in match after match, including friendlies. Players are selected less on long-term potential than on recent club form. Player selection appears haphazard and without any type of serious thought process regarding future implications.
In England, tactics change, a national style is absent and little consideration is given for blending in youth players into the side long-term. This sort of short-term thinking has left England in serious trouble, miles behind Germany at the international level.
The United States have seen the German setup and seek to emulate it. This is why Jürgen Klinsmann was hired for the US job AND given a long-term contract extension even before the 2014 World Cup.
The long-term plan was for Löw to build Germany gradually into a World champion. It has taken eight long and painful years. On Sunday, Germany will either get a just reward for its patience or begin the process of soul-searching and perhaps moving in a different direction.