By Oliver Trust
BERLIN, June 12 (Xinhua) -- German coach Joachim Loew has turned things on his head when preparing Germany for the first title since 1996. A roar of criticism has been following the 54-year old like a shadow ever since he left the German way. Never before has Germany started a major tournament with only one striker - and never before with a squad younger than the current one. Some say Loew is trying to change Germany's fundamental football-genetics with new tactics and a new type of player.
There is no spectacular reason for the change but the desperate attempt to win a trophy which is expressed in the German slogan "ready as never before". After three tournaments without recording a win, Loew is feeling the pressure of having to deliver. Should he fail it could well be his last job as Germany's head coach regardless of his contract that runs to 2016. Therefore he has decided to do things in a non-German way with almost no out-and-out strikers that are good in the air but instead with "smaller", extremely agile and fast "strikers" honing in on goal from the wings or midfield.
For Loew's World Cup strategy a new football phrase had to be invented. For him it's not only the "ball possession" style which the dominant Spanish side has practiced to perfection in recent years but "ball progression", meaning - gain possession and start to attack simultaneously. Dominate the game but be effective as well.
As Loew's strategic "mastermind", Swiss-born Urs Siegenthaler, points out that pure strikers may have lost influence in the game - especially in Brazil's hot and humid climate where matches will also be played early on in the afternoon.
"To attack a defensive side with 1.90 to 1.95 m tall defenders is like constantly battering your head against a brick wall. And you can't do it for a long time either. Smaller, more mobile forwards are the key."
Therefore Loew's team should play like the shining example set by Spain, a team which the German boss has wanted to copy and beat - unsuccessfully. With a "false nine", an additional offensive midfielder upfront, Loew is convinced midfield is the area where matches will be decided. It is also the launching pad for successful attacks.
"The thought of attacking must be in player's heads from the first second," says Loew. "You need excellent passers of the ball for that. If you only dominate the game by a high percentage of keep-ball you don't get anywhere, you waste time and spoil your chances."
Loew talks about "open man" moments which mean that his players always have to be position and ready to receive the ball.
Not everybody has confidence in Loew's style. German legend Uwe Seeler says: "I ask myself if one striker is enough?" Stefan Kuntz, the 1996 European Champion, does not "feel good with only one striker up front." A midfielder, he says, "in the box lacks the instinct of a striker." And Klaus Fischer, a former FC Schalke 04 striker, talks about Klose's fitness as a remaining concern: "With Gotze spearheading, it will not work."
But Loew has made it clear, his last chance to lift the World-Cup trophy is only realistic if he changes traditional patterns regardless of the fact that pre-tournament preparations have been disrupted by injuries to some of his key players. Resuscitating German striking traditions in memory of Gerd Muller, Rudi Voller, Jurgen Klinsmann and Horst Hrubesch was not a viable proposition for him.