There were no wild celebrations or congratulatory backslaps for Germany after they beat France 1-0 in the quarter-finals on Friday to become the first country to reach the semi-finals at four successive World Cups.
While Germany coach Joachim Loew acknowledged his country’s amazing feat, he was also keen to keep a lid on expectations, knowing full well the bittersweet end results of his team’s previous World Cup adventures.
Despite making the semi-finals at each of the last three World Cups, Germany’s incredible consistency remains tarnished by the fact they failed to go on and win those tournaments – something Loew is keen to make amends for this time.
“In the last four World Cups, we have been in the last four permanently, so that is quite a performance,” said Loew. “Now, we will try to make the next step. I think we have the intrinsic qualities to do that.”
“Titles are marvelous,” he added when pressed about his team’s recent record of near-misses. “And many of our players from Bayern Munich have already conquered the Champions League so that is important for them but for us, first and foremost, it’s a matter of playing the semi-finals.”
The last time Germany won the World Cup was in 1990. They were beaten in the 2002 final then the semi-finals in 2006 and 2010.
Like any shrewd coach, Loew was reluctant to talk up his team’s chances of winning the World Cup, sticking to the mantra that his team was taking it one match at a time after surviving a tough battle with the French.
Germany seized the lead with Mats Hummels’ brilliantly taken 13th minute header and defended resolutely as the French poured forward towards the end of the match.
“In the final phase in the second half, the French certainly tried to attack with all they had, it was obvious they had nothing to lose and were trying to score the equalizer.” Loew said.
“They had to score so they went for everything or nothing.
“I think both teams showed a great performance on the defensive side and both were also strong on the attack. We did not have that many goal scoring opportunities so I think both teams had a very good defensive solution.”
The Germans squandered a couple of late counter-attacking chances to score a second goal but Loew put the misses down to the scorching temperatures and draining humidity.
The match kicked off at the Maracana at 1pm local time and Loew said he was relieved that Germany’s remaining matches would all start around sunset when conditions were cooler.
“It was certainly not easy for us Europeans to play at 1pm on the pitch and in that sun,” he said. “It was extremely hot, you could hardly breathe. For Europeans, it’s hard because we’re not used to that.
“It was hard to keep concentrating all the time, so we started making mistakes but I think we managed it very well.
“I think the Latin American and Central American teams have a big home advantage, you cannot deny that. The South Americans are fighting for their life, they are used to these conditions, so they have a big home advantage.”
Loew said one of the strengths of the German team was that they could switch players and change their tactics depending on their opponents.
Against France he moved his captain Philipp Lahm from midfield to right back, and the ploy worked a treat, but Loew said he may choose a different lineup for Germany’s semi-final, against either Brazil or Colombia.
“When analyzing France, we knew they had these two defenders in the centre that are so strong so it difficult to go via the centre and the midfield so for this reason I decided to have Lahm on the right side. It was a tactical decision,” Loew said.
“It’s a matter of seeing how the players coped with this match. We saw players that were injured that had to go all the way, to their limits.
“We have to bring all the forces together and to see how they recover and regenerate over the next few days then we’ll make a decision.
“The players are informed about what I have in mind and there are discussions about it. We are able – and this is perhaps is one of our tactical strengths – to play different ways.”