Loew takes flak despite decade of German success

Evian (France) (AFP) – In reaching the Euro 2016 semi-finals, Joachim Loew has maintained his impressive record of consistently steering Germany to the final stages of major tournaments — yet is still facing criticism at home.

Germany face France or Iceland in next Thursday’s Marseille semi-final as die Mannschaft look to add a fourth European crown to their World Cup title.

Their Italian curse was finally broken with a dramatic 6-5 penalty shoot-out victory in Saturday’s quarter-final after a 1-1 stalemate following extra-time — Germany’s first win over their old enemies in nine attempts at major finals.

But even after Jonas Hector’s final converted penalty in Bordeaux saw Germany throw off the shackles of their history to break the Azzurri hoodoo, there were still grumblings back home.

Under Loew’s stewardship, the football-mad German public has got used to success again.

The inglorious exit at the group stage of Euro 2004 is now a distant, albeit unpleasant, memory.

Thanks to Loew’s influence, Germany have now reached at least the semi-finals of the last six major tournaments.

Loew was assistant to Jurgen Klinsmann when Germany finished third at the 2006 World Cup on home soil.

With Loew in sole charge, Germany reached the Euro 2008 final, finished third at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and made the semi-finals of Euro 2012 before winning the 2014 World Cup in Brazil — Germany’s fourth global crown, but their first for 24 years.

But even as the team were celebrating reaching another semi-final on Saturday, former international Mehmet Scholl was unimpressed by the win over Italy.

Scholl says Loew should not have abandoned the standard 4-2-3-1 formation, which won the World Cup, for a 3-5-2 line-up to combat the Italian midfield in Bordeaux.

– Too much tinkering? –

The ex-midfielder said the tinkering showed Loew does not trust his players as much as he did two years ago in Brazil.

Scholl argued Loew should stick with the same team for next week’s semi-final in Marseille and, should they progress, next Sunday’s final at the Stade de France.

“It’s not grumbling, but why put a team in that situation?” questioned Scholl in German daily Bild.

“In 2008, we changed things around and lost to Spain.

“2010: same again. 2012: changed things around against Italy and we went out.

“The point is, in 2014 Loew trusted the team and played the same formation from the quarter-finals and that’s how you win titles!”

Germany struggled to break down Italy’s watertight defence on Saturday and Mesut Ozil’s well-worked second-half goal was the highlight of a tense, edgy affair.

Loew has suffered one blow with key midfielder Sami Khedira set to be ruled out of the rest of the tournament after limping off with a partially torn groin muscle  against Italy.

Adding to the coach’s problems, centre-back Mats Hummels is suspended for the semi while striker Mario Gomez also took a knock against Italy.

Veteran midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, who came on after Khedira limped off in the first-half, was initially bothered by the right knee he had injured in March.

Probable changes to personnel aside, Scholl says Loew should stick with his tried-and-tested formation for the last week of the tournament.

“The goal has to be to achieve this automatic, fluid football we’ve played in the past,” he said.

Loew himself admits there is room for improvement as Germany struggled to finish their chances in Bordeaux.

Thomas Mueller endured another frustrating, goalless evening in Bordeaux while Schweinsteiger’s first-half header was ruled out for a foul.

With a record like Loew’s, he could be forgiven for ignoring his detractors — and he seemed set on just one goal after Saturday’s drama.

“Of course we want more,” he said. “When you’re in the semi, of course, the goal is to reach the final.”

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