Several days ago, WordPress happily let me know that I had 50 likes on my blog. So, thank you, everyone! I really appreciate it, especially considering the fact that my niche (the subject matter) is rather narrow.
Here’s the last part of the third chapter. If you need to review the previous one, you can find it here Chapter III – Part IV
Already during the first training session, Jogi Löw proves himself to be a shrewd tactician. It’s interesting what he has to say about every single position, especially for a player to whom no coach has yet given any suggestions as to how he could possibly interpret that of a left-back. We watch game segments on video. Above all, I find pictures of one’s own moves and mistakes very insightful and valuable.
We, the defensive players, train mostly with Löw. Klinsmann, who, himself, was a forward, mainly takes care of attacking players. On the agenda, there are exercises that begin with a goal kick and are played out in front of the opponent’s goal as fast as possible.
But also, the feeling that each and every player has of the team gets sharpened. For instance, we’re training, playing 11 against zero. The opponent consists only of man-sized, colored stencils that are placed on the field. The players then should pass through the opponent’s formation, to break through the midfield, play the ball to the side, make a cross, score a goal.
These methods are applied to the defense, too. They mostly have to be visualized by the team, i.e. how each position is connected to every other position. The team gets into a formation: the coach says, “The yellow man has the ball now.” And the team has to move accordingly, to position itself in a way that the yellow man has no one to play the ball to, and so on until the next command.
Also, the game, with which every training ends, usually has some additional tasks: a maximum of two ball contacts, every other pass has to be played forward, or something similar. Suddenly, training with the National Team is extremely demanding, varied, and enjoyable.
With a close regard for the needs of professionals, Oliver Bierhoff, a degree holder in Business Studies, who himself has been the best goal scorer in Serie A, creates an environment in the National Team that – after the dry relations beforehand – seems like a paradise. All of a sudden, one makes sure that all players have an opportunity to do something other than going to their room after training and playing on the computer.
Furthermore, the coaching staff states their ambitious goal already at the first meeting with the players. “We want,” says Klinsmann in his Swabian German, which basically has a touch of the American accent, “to become world champions at the World Cup in our own country.” Perhaps, at this time not all the players believe that something might actually come out of it. However, everyone hears the message that Klinsmann would like to relay to the world: no small rolls will be baked here*.
Since we, being the host nation, automatically qualify for the World Cup, we don’t have to play in any qualifiers. Instead, we test a lot; Klinsmann wants to try all possible candidates for his team and give the team a new frame in the next two years, forming it around the alpha males Ballack, Kahn, Lehmann, Frings, Schneider.
We win against Austria, get a draw against Brazil, win against Iran, and go on a tour to Asia shortly before the winter pause. I remember South Korea, where we lost 1:3, [playing] in the temperature barely above zero, and the next match in Thailand two days later that we would win 5:1 with the temperature being 35 degrees Celsius in the shade.
As we’re flying from Bangkok back to Frankfurt to spend Christmas at home, I’m thinking that I don’t want any presents at all since the year of 2004 has already been a gift for me. Because I’m not yet suspecting that I won’t play a single international match in 2005.
*I deliberately didn’t search for an equivalent (an idiom) in English because I didn’t want to lose the reference Lahm makes. As many of you probably know, Klinsmann’s family owns a bakery. (By the way, they baked special cookies after Germany had won against Brazil 7:1. Klinsmann posted a picture on his Twitter, too ^^) So, I like how Lahm points out that big things were about to start but does so with a personal touch.
(translation ©unavis. It is strictly forbidden to use this translation, in parts or in its entirety, without my consent.)
Lahm, Philipp. Der feine Unterschied: Wie man heute Spitzenfußballer wird. Munich: Kunstmann, 2011.