RIO DE JANEIRO – Jurgen Klinsmann's World Cup adventure ended nearly two weeks ago, but as his homeland, Germany, prepared for Sunday's final against Argentina, the U.S. coach was the recipient of some fulsome praise.
Just 24 hours from the biggest game of his life, veteran midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger took time to reflect and look back at where Germany's foundation to this title bid was laid. The root of it all, he said, began a decade ago with Klinsmann.
"We rejuvenated the team thanks to Joachim Loew and Jurgen Klinsmann in 2004," Schweinsteiger said. "And now we are reaping the rewards for the work they started."
Klinsmann, with Loew as his assistant, was in charge until 2006, taking the team to a World Cup semifinal on home soil before falling just short against eventual champion Italy. Loew then took over, maintaining the blueprint of physical excellence and tactical organization. It has worked consistently, but never better than now, as evidenced by Tuesday's 7-1 thumping of Brazil in the semifinals.
Listening to Schweinsteiger, the Klinsmann effect is still being felt. In 2006, the coach took a young group of players that was largely untested and set about making them believe in a path that would ultimately lead to triumph. By 2010, using that same approach, Loew took the side to the last four with the feeling that they were knocking on the door.
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Now, they are trying to smash it down.
"There are a lot of players on this team that were on that 2010 World Cup team and we were all playing at a high level at that point," Schweinsteiger said. "Now we're all playing at a very high level again in the World Cup.
"I believe in this team because I've seen the quality of the players we have and we can accomplish anything with them."
Germany surged through Group G, destroying Portugal, battling to an entertaining draw against Ghana that is still one of the best games of the tournament and then proving too much for the U.S.
Algeria, France and, of course, Brazil, were no match, so now it is just Argentina remaining, a team led by Lionel Messi and one that is hungry for glory.
"This team is not only Messi," Loew said. "If you think this team is only Messi, you are making a mistake. They have excellent attackers … Of course, Messi is a great player but they are much more than him. They are a talented team all around.
"Two teams are going to face off at exactly the same level. I think we have the necessary self-confidence and skill level that we will impose our game plan and we will win."
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