Germany's Loew shows he is a tournament tactician

Fri Jul 4, 2014 3:48pm EDT
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By Mitch Phillips

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - "Don’t change a winning team" is a mantra beloved of armchair coaches but when it gets to the business end of a World Cup there is no room for sentiment, as Joachim Loew showed when his reshuffled Germany beat France 1-0 to reach the last four.

There is also no reason why a coach should be expected to keep his promises, as Loew also showed by finally switching Philipp Lahm back to his natural position of fullback.

"I have taken my decisions, including the role of Lahm and I will stick to those until the very end," Loew said two days before the match after yet again being pressed about his decision to retain his captain in the midfield berth he has occupied for most of the season at Bayern Munich.

The perceived issue was not so much Lahm's failure to add anything to midfield during Germany's bumpy progress to the quarter-finals but the problem of filling his place on the flank, where Germany were routinely exposed in the group stage and in their extra-time second-round win over Algeria.

Loew also bit the bullet up front, dropping the misfiring Mario Goetze and giving Miroslav Klose a first start of the tournament, while he also brought back flu-victim Mats Hummels for Per Mertesacker at center back, adding a bit of pace to combat key French striker Karim Benzema.

With Lahm back in his number one position, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira were reunited as a holding midfield duo, giving Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil and Thomas Mueller freedom to roam behind Klose as a clear point of attack.

"The team wasn’t surprised (by the changes)," Loew said. "They know I’ve got a variety of different lineup plans. I always said when I have the feeling that I need to set a new stimulus, I’ll do it and the players know that."

It was a credit to the coach's and the players' tactical discipline that the new lineup settled instantly and took command from the kickoff.   Continued...

Germany's coach Joachim Loew watches as his team plays against Algeria during their 2014 World Cup round of 16 game at the Beira Rio stadium in Porto Alegre June 30, 2014. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini