Berlin (AFP) – Joachim Loew led Germany to the high of their 2014 World Cup triumph, but his 15-year reign as coach ended Tuesday with the low of a rare defeat to England in the last 16 of Euro 2020.
Having scraped through their group with a 2-2 draw against Hungary, Germany bow out with a 2-0 defeat at Wembley, their first loss against England in the knockout stages of a major tournament since the 1966 World Cup final.
It was a sad end for the 61-year-old, known as “Jogi” by his peers and who had been at Germany’s helm since 2006.
The high point of his tenure was the victory in the 2014 World Cup final in Brazil but he never really recovered from the low of the World Cup in Russia three years later, when Germany finished bottom of their group.
Getting out of their European Championship group was the bare minimum expected of Loew’s Germany, who bounced back from defeat to France in their opening game with a 4-2 win over holders Portugal before that nerve-shredding draw with Hungary.
His run as national head coach rivals Angela Merkel’s 16 years in office as Chancellor, earning him the nickname of Germany’s “eternal coach”.
However, he walks away with his once-golden reputation tarnished by a succession of defeats which started with the disastrous World Cup campaign in Russia three years ago when Germany were beaten by Mexico and South Korea.
It was further damaged by a 6-0 thrashing by Spain last November — the German team’s heaviest defeat since 1931 — and a shock home defeat to minnows North Macedonia in a World Cup qualifier in March.
Calls for Loew to step aside were already loud after the debacle in Russia, but he insisted he would stay on to make amends at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
However with his confidence rattled, Loew announced in early March that Euro 2020 would be his last tournament.
His replacement, his one-time assistant coach Hansi Flick who masterminded Bayern Munich’s treble-winning season in 2019/20, takes charge in time for September’s World Cup qualifiers.
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Loew, a former centre-forward who played most of his football in Germany’s second division, arrived at the national team as assistant coach to Jurgen Klinsmann in 2004.
After taking the reins as head coach in 2006, he led the team to the final of Euro 2008 and then the semi-finals of both the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012.
He won the ultimate prize in Brazil, a 1-0 win against Argentina in the final earning Germany the 2014 World Cup after a thrilling campaign in which they also trounced the host nation 7-1 in the semi-finals.
Under Loew, Germany ditched their reputation for defence-minded football and began to play a faster tempo.
The coach himself became an icon in Germany and began appearing in advertisements, peddling skin-care products for Nivea to holidays with Tui.
Behind his unassuming exterior, Loew, who was trained as a wholesale trader, harboured high ambitions of a place in the history books.
Just after lifting the World Cup, he voiced his wish to be Germany’s first coach to also win the European Championship straight after a global crown.
After hosts France knocked out Germany at the semi-final stage of Euro 2016, Loew set himself the challenge of winning consecutive World Cups.
Yet things slowly began to unravel, then plunged irreversibly during the 2018 Russian campaign.
While the German Football Association (DFB) repeatedly held off from sacking him, Loew had already lost his allure.
After a difficult autumn that was topped off by a Nations League thrashing against Spain, a poll at the end of November found that 84 percent of Germany fans wanted Loew to go.
German media were also increasingly vocal in their criticism of the coach.
The main charge against him has been his stubborn refusal to change tactics despite poor results.
Nevertheless, his record of 124 wins in 198 matches as Germany’s head coach is a tally in the record books which will likely stand for quite some time.
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