x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

German morale Löw

The World Cup preparations have been overshadowed by a damaging contract dispute between the national team coach and the German Football Association.

Theo Zwanziger, left, the president of the German Football Association (DFB) and coach Joachim Löw put on a united front at a press conference on Tuesday.
Theo Zwanziger, left, the president of the German Football Association (DFB) and coach Joachim Löw put on a united front at a press conference on Tuesday.

Germany's World Cup preparations have been overshadowed by a damaging contract dispute between Joachim Löw, the national team coach, and the German Football Association (DFB), triggering speculation that Löw will quit after the tournament. Commentators say the row has weakened his authority within the team, hurt his public image and poisoned relations among the top officials in German football just four months before kick-off in South Africa.

The DFB last week rejected terms demanded by Löw and Oliver Bierhoff, the team manager, for the extension of their contracts after the World Cup. They wanted a ?2 million (Dh10.1m) annual bonus for the six-man coaching team and a greater say in appointments and sponsorship. Löw earns around ?3m a year. He was reported to be furious that the demands, which clashed with previous statements that he was not interested in money, had been leaked to the press.

The country has a rich tradition in performing well at major championships and there has been intense pressure on both sides to bury the hatchet amid fears that the dispute might impair Germany's performance. Both parties responded by publicly calling a truce at a joint news conference on Tuesday broadcast live on three German television channels. They apologised for their spat but said they had shelved the contract talks until after the World Cup, and despite the conciliatory words, it was evident that the negotiations have left a rift in the respective camps.

"On an emotional level something broke down," Theo Zwanziger, the DFB president, said. "We have to work to re-establish the firm relationship we had before. The only thing that matters is success at this World Cup. And that is only possible with this coach." "Everyone else is replaceable," Zwanziger added in a comment aimed at Bierhoff, who had pushed particularly hard for more money and power.

Löw, 50, who has coached the team since 2006, said: "I was very stressed out with this situation but I can live with the arrangement to stay on until the World Cup, and then we'll see what will happen. I'm sure we'll prepare the team excellently." The show of reconciliation failed to convince football pundits. "It remains to be seen how long the fragile peace will hold. This was just meant to appease the public," wrote Sport Informations Dienst, Germany's sports news agency.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a leading broadsheet in Germany, wrote: "German football now has an additional opponent at the World Cup - itself. "Löw and Co have an additional burden to shoulder on the road to South Africa." Alexander Steudel, the editor of Sport Bild, a leading magazine, wrote that Löw and Bierhoff had sacrificed too much authority to be able to steer the team through the World Cup.

"This rift can't be mended, the game is over for Löw and Bierhoff. They should understand that and give up - immediately - before they do German football any more harm." Sport Bild reported that Löw plans to resign after his contract expires on July 31 and may be succeeded by Matthias Sammer, the DFB's sports director in charge of youth development and a former German international. Michael Ballack, the team captain, said Germany now needs to perform well in an international friendly against Argentina on March 3 to end the controversy.

"It's not an optimal situation. I think this issue will keep on brewing for some time," said the Chelsea midfielder. Löw's record as coach has been solid so far. Germany were runners-up in the 2008 European Championships and qualified at the top of their group for the World Cup. They are unbeaten in their last 10 fixtures, although some performances have been lacklustre with Low's tactics criticised. In 45 games under Löw, Germany have recorded 31 wins, eight draws and six defeats.

The Germans, who finished third at the last World Cup, which they hosted, are in the same group as Australia, Serbia and Ghana at this summer's finals in South Africa. @Email:dcrossland@thenational.ae