World Soccer: How confident are you of Germany’s chances at the World Cup?
Joachim Low: It’s always stimulating to be in charge of a national team with such a great World Cup heritage. Time and time again we have shown a fantastic capacity to get it right in major tournaments. A positive history can help psychologically but it must not be a crutch. We have to deliver in the here and now. We’re probably not among the top favourites for the title, but we certainly have the wherewithal to go a long way, to make a good impact.
Why are you optimistic?
In recent years I’ve noted a marked improvement in the footballing ability of the side. It’s an ongoing process and we’re on the right path. I’m very happy with the blend of experience and youth we have in the squad. After Euro 2008 it was clear we needed to rejuvenate and this we’ve achieved. Roughly half the current squad is 23 or younger and they bring a freshness and hunger which can only be helpful. A number of our young representative teams have won titles recently. Tactically I have a good feeling too. In both World Cup qualifiers against Russia, and at Euro 2008, we proved we’re capable of playing a good strategic game.
What would constitute a good tournament from your perspective?
One thing is for sure: no German team ever goes into a tournament saying they only want to get through the first phase. We aim to win the competition, but we’re ambitious with a touch of realism thrown in.
What of your group?
Well, it certainly will not be a formality. Australians are, by nature, great competitors – they made life difficult for us when we beat them 4-3 at the 2005 Confederations Cup. Ghana are one of the best sides in Africa – in no way are they outsiders. Serbia could be the strongest of all our opponents; they have outstanding players.
Who are your most important players?
I totally disagree with those who say we lack leaders. In Klose, Lahm, Schweinsteiger and Mertesacker we have players of experience and leadership potential in huge amounts.
Podolski is struggling for form at Koln, while Klose is mainly a substitute at Bayern…
Clearly their situations could be better. But the long and short of it is that neither has ever let the national team down. Both have super strike rates for Germany and are guys who are transcended when they play for us.
Who are your World Cup favourites?
The usual candidates: Brazil, Argentina, Holland, England and, above all, Spain. For the last three years they have won almost every game, which is unbelievable. They have outstanding individuals, plus a flexible and effective organisation.
And your outsiders?
I’d have to go for an African side. They are on their own continent, know the conditions and physically they will be imposing. In the last 10 to 15 years, they have made incredible strides. Their best players are with top European clubs and, in the tactical domain, they are improving all the time. This is their big chance.
Did you ever consider quitting after the messy breakdown in negotiations over your new contract?
Never. This is a World Cup year and my mission is incomplete. I’m not a quitter, it’s not my style. There’s a lot of work still to do and I have to see it through. For
a coach, the players and the fans, the World Cup is the ultimate challenge.