Why German coaches dominate the World Cup

Six of the the 32 teams in the tournament have, or recently had, a German coach at the helm. It's no coincidence

Topics: GlobalPost, 2014 World Cup, Germany, Soccer, futbol,

Why German coaches dominate the World CupUnited States soccer coach Jürgen Klinsmann (Credit: AP/Jeff Chiu)
This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

Global Post If jerseys Berliners wear to the bar are anything to go by, the German World Cup team hasn’t captured as many hearts here as have Brazil, Italy or even (yes) France.

But at least this year, everyone loves a German coach.

Counting the German team itself — led by former Bundesliga star Joachim Low — six out of 32 World Cup teams have, or recently had, a German at the helm going into the 2014 championships: Australia, Cameroon, Croatia, Germany, Switzerland and the United States.

(Full disclosure: Australia dumped Holger Osieck in October 2013, and Croatia’s Niko Kovac, although he was born in Berlin and came up playing in Germany, is technically Bosnian.)

So what gives? And will the Germans’ grinding style spoil what Brazil’s Pele called “the beautiful game”?

Fortunately for fans, experts trace the popularity of German coaches to the new prominence of the Bundesliga in Europe’s Champions League — which featured an all-German final for the first time in 2013 — and a new style of play.

“Foreign coaches are more or less an exception in the Bundesliga,” says Jens Peters of Fokus Fussball, a popular German soccer blog.

“[The profile of German coaches has grown] through the success of coaches like Jupp Heynckes and Jurgen Klopp, who led their teams to the Champions League Final in 2013, and the success of coaches like Winfried Schafer or Volker Finke with African and Asian teams.”

Meanwhile, fans who remember the German teams of yesteryear and haven’t watched the game in a while will be in for a surprise, according to Rafael Wieczorek, coaching director at Coerver Coaching Germany.

“In the past, German soccer was known for ‘fight and fitness’ because the players didn’t have the technical skills to match Brazil or the Netherlands,” he says.

“Now the team has a lot of technically skilled players, so the philosophy has changed.”

That’s fine for Low, whose side features dynamic scorers such as Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil, Lazio’s Miroslav Klose and Bayern Munich teammates Mario Gotze, Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger.

But what about the other German-coached teams in the mix?


In only their fourth World Cup appearance, the Soccerroos replaced Osieck with Greek-Australian Ange Postecoglou hardly six months before the final, after the team lost 6-0, 6-0 to Brazil and France.

They come into Group B as heavy underdogs, facing perennial big guns Spain and the Netherlands with an untested squad that could include as many as 10 players under 22 years old. Hustle may be their only chance.


Having replaced former Cameroon international Jean Paul Akono in May 2013, long-term Bundesliga coach Volker Finke arguably has a better chance against Brazil, Croatia and Mexico in Group A.

Pioneering a passing-oriented, pressing style that eschewed superstars, Finke created the “Moneyball” of the Bundesliga and could well make a lot out of a little in Rio. Meanwhile, Finke has an experienced squad of fighters who will run themselves into the ground for the veteran campaigner.


Born and raised in Berlin, Croatia’s Kovac enjoyed a workmanlike career in the Bundesliga before eventually captaining Croatia’s 2006 World Cup side and the team that beat England twice at the Euro 2008. When he came on board as coach in October last year, he hinted he’d introduce German discipline and tactics. But the 30-man roster he unveiled in May suggests that he may sacrifice physical play for technical skill, according to the Bleacher Report’s Alexandar Holiga.


In charge of the Swiss team since 2008, 64-year-old Ottmar Hitzfeld selected no fewer thannine Bundesliga players for this year’s World Cup campaign. Starting off against Ecuador in Group E, the “tactical genius” arguably has a better chance this year than in 2010, when Switzerland secured an upset win over Spain but failed to advance to the second round. Like Germany itself, he’s adopted a more attacking style to suit creative young players like Bayern Munich’s Xherdan Shaqiri, Borussia Monchengladbach’s Granit Xhaka and Napoli’s Gokhan Inler. Already having announced his retirement, Hitzfeld has also uncharacteristically predicted his boys will “shock the world.”


A physical player and prolific scorer during his career, Jürgen Klinsmann already lived in California when he coached Germany for the 2006 World Cup, so he was the natural choice to convert America’s team of Charlie Hustles into an exciting, attacking force. The change didn’t come without ups and downs. Klinsmann had to face down dissent among the ranks and anonymous sniping in the press during qualifying, and reports suggest he’s still wrangling his dubious stars despite selecting a host of German-born Americans for the squad. Meanwhile, he faces Ghana and Portugal in Group G before he squares off against Low and Germany — and in this case, familiarity breeds nothing but respect. “Klinsmann and Low together led Germany to third place in 2006,” says Peters of Fussball Fokus. “It would be a surprise if either of them could fool his counterpart with a totally new strategy.”

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows


Loading Comments...