2014 FIFA World Cup
Previous Clubs/Countries: Stuttgart; Fenerbahe; Karlsruher SC; Adanaspor; FC Tirol Innsbruck; Austria Vienna;
Honours: D FB Pokal: 1997; Austrian Bundesliga: 2002; Austrian Super Cup: 2003;
When Joachim Loew first appeared on the international scene as Jurgen Klinsmann's sidekick at Germany, he was the debonair man relatively unknown to the worldwide footballing community. It's difficult to believe that Germany were labelled a footballing nation in crisis in 2004 and since taking over from the "Golden Bomber" in 2006, Loew has transformed Die Mannschaft into one of the most feared nations in world football, establishing himself as one of the finest and most reputable coaches around.
Like many other successful managers before him, Loew enjoyed a respectable but somewhat unspectacular playing career. While he still holds the record as Freiburg's all-time record scorer with 81 goals, Loew failed to shine in Germany's top flight with Stuttgart and never made the step up from West Germany's under-21 side -- with whom he made four appearances -- to the senior national team. He enjoyed further stints at Freiburg and Karlsruhe before eventually finishing his career in Switzerland as a player-coach.
Loew became the assistant to Rolf Fringer at Stuttgart in 1995 but after the Austrian coach decided to accept the Switzerland national team post, his young lieutenant took over the managerial reins a year later. The decision was not completely welcomed by the Die Schwaben faithful but Loew won over his cynics by leading Stuttgart to a DFB-Pokal triumph and a European Cup Winners' Cup final, where they were narrowly defeated 1-0 by Chelsea.
Loew moved on to Turkey but failed to taste similar success with Fenerbahce or Adanaspor, eventually finding his feet again in Austria at Tirol Innsbruck, who he guided to a league title in his first season. Financial troubles meant the club were liquidated that same year, leaving Loew unemployed until Austria Vienna appointed him in June 2003. His tenure got off to a perfect start when the capital outfit won the Austrian Super Cup but he missed out on a league title to Grazer AK by a solitary point.
While his coaching career up until this point hardly made him stand out, his philosophy and tactics did, especially to Klinsmann, who had been appointed as Germany coach following Rudi Voeller's disappointing Euro 2004 campaign. The pair had met at a coaching school some years previous and Klinsmann hired Low as his right-hand man in what proved to be a dynamic and fruitful partnership.
Germany's 2004 side had been accused of being too lethargic and defensive and cried out for an attacking impetus. Klinsmann and Loew opted for a policy of performance over reputation and there became a focus on blooding younger talents as Germany looked to build for the future. Their intuition paid dividends and Germany were praised for their attacking performances in the 2005 Confederations Cup, where they reached the semifinals, scoring 15 goals in five games. Die Mannschaft again suffered semifinal heartache at the 2006 World Cup -- losing 2-0 to Italy in extra-time on home soil -- but their new attacking brand of football had regained the faith of the nation.
Klinsmann's decision to step down after the tournament paved the way for Loew to take over and he appears to have found the right formula for Germany since, combining a devastating attack with an unyielding defensive unit. Under his stewardship, Germany reached the final of Euro 2008 but a solitary strike from Fernando Torres ensured the 12-year wait for a major international trophy was extended.
The three-time World Cup winners then qualified for the 2010 World Cup without tasting defeat and during the tournament in South Africa, Loew fielded the second youngest team in the competition and Germany's youngest since 1934. The Germans produced some of the finest displays of the tournament -- particularly their respective 4-1 and 4-0 thrashings of England and Argentina -- leading many to believe they were primed to lift world's most prestigious sporting prize. However, Vicente del Bosque's Spain again upset the party with a Carles Puyol header separating the two sides in the semifinals.
The last-four hurdle appears to be a particularly problematic one for Germany and despite winning all ten of their Euro 2012 qualifiers and all three of their 'Group of Death' matches against Portugal, Netherlands and Denmark at the tournament, it proved to be the case again as Loew's side fell victim to a Mario Balotelli-inspired Italy, narrowly missing out on a second successive European Championship final appearance.
The German Football Association (DFB) remained convinced, however, that Loew was the right man to bring success to the national side success and after Euro 2012 he was handed a contract extension to 2014, which was further lengthened to 2016 after heguided Germany to the 2014 World Cup with ease. They again qualified as unbeaten winners in their group, scoring a remarkable 36 goals in 10 matches. With one of the strongest spines in Europe and a wealth of experience coupled with an abundance of upcoming talent, it appears that Germany will continue to compete at the highest level for years to come and it would take a brave man to bet against Loew's side ending an 18-year wait for international honours when the countdown to Brazil is finally over.
Strengths: Loew's determination to integrate young talent into an experienced side has proved a masterstroke for Germany, while he has proved himself to be an astute tactician.
Weaknesses: While he does possess an impressive record with Germany, Loew does not boast as impressive a CV as most European coaches and the lack of silverware in particular stands out.
Career High: When Germany faced Italy on November 15, 2013, it marked his 100th game in charge of the national side. With a win percentage of 68.32%, Loew boasts the best record of any Germany manager.
Career Low: Between November 1999 and March 2001, Loew received back-to-back sackings when he coached Kalsruhe and Adanaspor, winning only one match in 23 games.
Tactics: Favours a 4-2-3-1 formation and due to its success, he is reluctant to experiment with new systems. He likes his wingers to cut inside with his full-backs assisting the attack on the overlap. His decision to move Bastian Schweinsteiger from the right wing to holding midfield is one of his many success stories, while he informs his players to cover certain rectangles of the pitch.
Quotes: "Since the 2006 World Cup, the national team has always finished in the top four at world and European championships. The team also comfortably dealt with the recent qualifying campaign for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. A dynamic, attacking and thrilling style of play is a hallmark of the national team. All this is thanks to Joachim Low." DFB president Wolfgang Niersbach praises Loew's achievements and philosophy as head coach.
Trivia: Having received a ban for arguing with the fourth official during the Euro 2008 group game against Austria, Loeww was penalised by being sent to the stands and subsequently showed a penchant for chain-smoking.
Words: Max Bentley