It’s difficult to know who’s the more tragic figure at this point. On the one hand, you have Joachim Löw, the once revered coach who led Germany to football’s ultimate prize once upon a time but has lost all control of matters on the field. On the other, there is the DFB, who had the chance to fire Löw in 2018 but didn’t .
The two main players at the DFB are Oliver Bierhoff and Fritz Keller, president since 2019 and now facing the biggest crisis of his presidency concerning his long-time friend Löw. Bierhoff, in his post as national team director for almost three years and integral to the team’s downfall, loves to talk up a new sponsorship deal or Germany’s upcoming training center in Frankfurt – “the Silicon Valley of coaching” in his words.
Unfortunately for the nation he once represented with such distinction on the field, he now lacks the backbone or understanding of his own responsibility to German football to deal with the major crisis right under his nose. Between Löw, Bierhoff and Keller, they are tearing apart Die Mannschaft and making a once proud team a national embarrassment rivalled only by Berlin’s new airport.
Tuesday’s gutless 6-0 defeat was not inflicted by a vintage Spain team. Luis Enrique’s side had scored just three goals in their previous five games. For Löw and Germany though, it should never have reached this point. Löw’s peak as Germany coach came on a glittering night in Rio in 2014, but the gloss is being stripped with every passing day. With Hansi Flick, the now highly successful Bayern Munich coach by his side, Löw’s Germany conquered all before them. An iconic 7-1 win over Brazil and that Mario Götze goal will live long in the memory – but memories are all Löw has left. They’re all he’s had for a long time.
Big contract, big failure
There were signs that the wheels were falling off as early as 2016, but if Löw wasn’t to leave at his peak, he should have had the decency to walk at his nadir. The 2018 World Cup was an unmitigated disaster for Germany. Buoyed by a huge contract awarded to him just before the World Cup by former DFB president Reinhard Grindel, Löw made the call to leave Leroy Sane out of his World Cup squad. A decision which at the time was questionable, but soon revealed itself to be mad.
It wasn’t just the insipid nature of Germany’s title defense but the subsequent fallout that showed Löw had lost control. Mesut Özil quit the national team after allegations of racism and scapegoating for the Russia debacle, before Thomas Müller, Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels were airbrushed from the team for no discernible reason. At least two of the three have gone on to play some of the best football of their careers in the last two years.
Germany’s slow death
What has followed in the two years since Russia 2018 has been the slow death of any lingering pride or hope Germans feel in their national team. On the field, they lack the imagination and attacking quality of a Müller, and are hemorraging goals in a manner that could be stemmed by a Boateng or a Hummels. Löw is not only having his pockets lined to the tune of $5million a year, but lacks the humility to even acknowledge his own errors – and there have been many – or the decency to step down from a job for which he is no longer suited.
If Löw lacks the decency required, then surely Keller and Bierhoff will step in and do the right thing? Not a chance. Löw will remain the coach of Germany until the 2021 European Championship even though everyone except him knows his race is run. His players know, the German public know, Michael Ballack knows, journalists know, the DFB know. Keller and Bierhoff could still pull the trigger even if Löw won’t do it himself. But don’t hold your breath – Löw isn’t going anywhere. The only question left to answer is how much more shame will the once great “Jogi” bring to Germany’s footballing reputation between now and then?