History holds no fear for Loew's Germany
IF THE Germans really can go on and win this European Championships then they will remember fondly their time in Gdansk, the Baltic port they used as a base where the foundations for the success will have been laid.
In stark contrast to Ireland, who pitched their tent just up the road in Sopot, Joachim Loew’s side have won each of their four games at the tournament during their time here and were preparing yesterday to up sticks and head for Warsaw with, the manager said, a fully fit squad.
Despite coming through a particularly tough group, however, tomorrow night’s semi-final meeting with the Italians might be said to represent the first really major test of their title credentials.
Certainly, Loew was anxious to play down the significance of his side’s comfortable defeat of Greece here on Friday night.
“The performance probably could not have been improved upon but Greece cannot be the yardstick for Germany,” he said. “Italy are a different type of opponent with very different qualities.”
An easy indication of that is the two teams’ respective records against the Germans: the Greeks have never beaten them while, more remarkably, the Italians have never lost to their great rivals in a competitive match.
“Look,” said Loew, “none of the previous matches have any significance now. In football there’s no such thing as revenge, there’s no way we can make good the result of 2006 , it’s over now.
“We have never beaten the Italians in a tournament but so what? It doesn’t mean anything to these young players. It is something that they read about in history books but it doesn’t feature in our team talks.”
Andrea Pirlo, he admits, will and the team’s efforts to deal with the Italian midfielder will be bolstered, it seems, by the presence of Bastian Schweinsteiger who is said to have recovered from an ankle injury that troubled him in the lead up to the quarter-final.
“It’s not just that he was good against England,” says the German coach, “he has been good in every game that he has played. Some people thought that his best might be behind him in 2010 but here he is back, enjoying his second or even his third spring.
“He is somebody I would describe as a genius and we will have to find a way of dealing with him, not by man marking him, that would be a waste of time because of the way he drops so deep sometimes but when he comes forward he will have to be stopped and that is something that we will have to speak about.”
According to Miroslav Klose, one of only a couple of German survivors from the 2006 defeat, the approach will have to be rather different to the one adopted by England at the weekend with the Lazio striker suggesting that they invited trouble upon themselves by ceding so much territory.
“People are saying that Italy are playing a more attacking style but if their opponents sit as deep as England did then of course it is going to be true. The Italians are very comfortable on the ball and of course they are happy to push opponents back if they are allowed to.
“But I think we play a different way. I think we will look for their weak points and look to put pressure on them in those places.”
One reporter then raised chuckles by requesting that Klose, having been based in Rome for a year now, oblige the assembled press by “confirming German stereotypes of the Italians, like laziness . . . ?”
Klose laughed and then, conscious no doubt that quite a lot might be made of his answer, tried to construct a diplomatic response. “There are differences between the way the two peoples view life but I would never dream of saying the Italians are lazy,” said the 34-year-old.
“Professionalism; punctuality these so called German virtues are things that the Italians take with a little bit of a pinch of salt. They are definitely more laid back in life as in football but that may be to their advantage in this game.”
Klose looked about just a little nervously as if to see if he’d got through without bringing a whole heap of trouble down upon his head. The Germans certainly seemed happy, which may not actually be a good sign.