It's a sprint, not a marathon, as 'Jogi' presses fast forward to put Germany ahead of the rest

Coach Löw's methods have changed the nature of national side's game to produce a slick machine

Warsaw

Cast your mind back to Euro 96 and an image of Dieter Eilts may appear. The stocky midfielder did not gladden the eye like Jürgen Klinsmann or Karel Poborsky, but for three weeks he was the most important footballer in England. Powerful, disciplined and selfless, Eilts – with the likes of Stefan Kuntz and Oliver Bierhoff – epitomised the character of a footballing nation. And in the end the Germans won.

That nation has changed utterly. The process began to be widely recognised seven years ago, during the Confederations Cup, in which Germany practised hosting the World Cup with a coltish willingness to attack that some of us ascribed to the difference in personality between Klinsmann and, say, the old-school graduate Berti Vogts, who had managed his country to ultimate triumph over the Czechs at Wembley in 1996.

It was a superficial theory. Klinsmann supervised the new philosophy's introduction but its principal architect was Joachim ''Jogi'' Löw, his then assistant and now successor. Löw guided Germany to the European final in 2008. By 2010, having blended in the products of revamped Bundesliga academies, some of whom had become European Under-21 champions, Löw had built a team lively enough to beat England 4-1 in the World Cup, albeit with luck when Frank Lampard's goal was not allowed.

The impression that their best days were to come has survived a build-up to this tournament that included a 5-3 defeat by Switzerland. Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira – your Germans seldom have names like Dieter these days – have become even brighter stars at Real Madrid. Mario Gomez has supplanted Miroslav Klose and Mats Hummels edged out Per Mertesacker. Thomas Müller is again hinting at top class. And among those unable to command a shirt are Toni Kroos and the lavishly gifted young Mario Gotze.

There is no equivalent of Eilts. Worthy though he was, the Germans now expect slick passing and movement from everyone between the goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer, and the arch-predator Gomez. Bastian Schweinsteiger, who holds in midfield, is a fine distributor of the ball.

If Spain did not exist, aesthetes would hardly pine as long as Löw and his team were there to lead flair's procession (not that Germany alone have entertained us in this highly enjoyable tournament).

Like many an outstanding coach, the 52-year-old Löw, who returned to Germany to help Klinsmann after a club career that featured Fenerbahce and Austria Vienna among others, often seems to speak in tangents. Until you realise how rigorous a researcher he is.

During the Confederations Cup he responded to a victory by saying how pleased he was that the players had committed so few fouls (no doubt he had analysed the adverse effect of free-kicks conceded), and the other day he willingly answered someone who had asked if he stood by a 2010 description of football as a sport ''defined by a succession of sprints''.

Low said: ''It is like that now, more than ever before. Generally speaking, the tempo of the game has increased. People do an awful lot of running now and the way that has traditionally been interpreted is to say that the team who runs more wins the game. Our analysis, though, has shown that that view is too superficial. Our focus now is on what kind of sprints players make, where they do it, how they do it and in what direction.

''Emotionally speaking, sprints forward have much better connotations than running back. We ran a lot against Switzerland but the runs were all backwards, so they had very negative emotional connotations. If you are going forward, you forget how much you have run and how fast you have done. It doesn't hurt as much to sprint forwards.''

A relish for detail is, of course, only part of Löw. Though fortunate in having been in charge of the national team when the academies bore their first fruit, he has applied brilliant man-management to the task of subjugating egos; that his players like where he is taking them is obvious from the way they perform together.

Maybe qualification requires a point, at most, from tonight's match with Denmark. Then it's onward, upward – and fast forward.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests