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Turnaround Management with the German National Football Team Introduction Germany impressed the whole world with their swashbuckling brand of football en route to the semi-finals, where they ultimately bowed out to Spain. They had dismantled the English 4-1 and toyed with the Argentines (4-0), and their stellar performances provided some much needed gloss to an otherwise lacklustre world cup. But it was only six years ago, this summer, that they were returning home early from a major tournament and wondering what the future held. Germany had to rebuild after the debacle of the 2004 European Championship in Portugal.
They did not win a single game and failed to get out of our group for the second consecutive European Championships (Euro 2000 had already been a huge disaster culminating in humiliating group stage elimination with losses to Portugal and England). German football appeared to have reached its nadir in 2004. The Brand Image of German Football German football has traditionally focussed on putting function above flair, efficiency above flamboyance, with result-oriented “safety football” holding sway over entertainment for the masses.
The first of Germany’s three world cup wins, in 1954, had come by dint of guts and determination rather than verve and panache in the face of much more talented and technically proficient opposition- the ‘Magical Magyars’ of Hungary. The second of their world cup triumphs had also come against the odds, on home soil against the scintillating ‘Total Football’ team of the Netherlands in 1974. Their last win, in 1990 was in the most boring world cup of all time (Italia 1990 has the lowest goals per game average (2. 1), and is commonly regarded as the most boring world cup ever). Thus Germany had cultivated a knack of grinding out consistent results despite never really raising the level of their play (in the words of Gary Lineker, “Football is a game played by 22 men, and in the end, the Germans always win. ”). The Precipitous slide begins In the late nineties and the beginning of this decade however, the efficiency began to fade, while the dull nature of German football remained unchanged.
A shocking quarter-final loss to Croatia (0-3) in world cup 1998 exposed the chinks in the armour of ageing team, and six years of poor performances later (a 1-5 loss to England in 2001, 0-3 loss to Portugal in 2000 etc), German football was plunged into crisis, after elimination in the group stage of Euro 2004. The beginnings of revival with the Klinsmann Era Consequently, the German Football Board (DFB) decided to appoint Juergen Klinsmann (former world cup winner) as coach in the summer of 2004.
Juergen had a clear mandate – to revitalize German football and take it back to its rightful place among the footballing nations. He was given a free hand to implement this. Says Juergen, “I got the chance to decide on the direction we took when I agreed to take over as Germany coach that summer, with current manager Joachim Loew as my assistant. ‘Jogi’ and I began the whole regeneration process by trying to give our national team an identity. We eventually decided to go down an attack-minded route, passing the ball on the ground from the back to the front line as quickly as possible using dynamic football.
Klinsmann and Loew designed a new blueprint for German football| From that, we created a style of play that this Germany team in South Africa now really lives and breathes. ” Klinsmann’s Process for turnaround of German Football Drawing a blueprint for the future of German Football – strategy formulation When Jogi and Klinsmann took over the German side, they made their plans very public and made it clear that they were trying to rebuild from the bottom up.
The German Football Association (DFB) helped them by putting a lot of pressure on all the first and second division teams in the Bundesliga (the German football league) to build academy programmes and ensure talented young players were coming through but they still had to decide on their playing style. | | To do that, they quizzed everyone they could. Klinsi and Jogi held workshops with German coaches and players, asking them to write down on flip charts three things: how they wanted to play, how they wanted to be seen to be playing by the rest of the world and how the German public wanted to see them playing. If we could define all of that, we thought we could lay out how we wanted to work and then, from there, sort out the training and paperwork behind the scenes. What we ended up with amounted to 10 or 12 bullet points laying out our proposals. We then announced that it was our intention to play a fast-paced game, an attacking game and a proactive game. ”, said Klinsmann That last term was something the Germans were distinctly uncomfortable with because they did not really understand what proactive meant.
When told that it meant they did not react to what our opponents did, they played the way that was right for them, the public was sceptical. Strategy Implementation Once the strategy of how to play was drawn up, Klinsmann created a master-plan for German football and presented it to the Bundesliga and DFB boards in the winter of 2004. Klinsmann knew had to secure buy-in from all the clubs in the German Bundesliga to ensure consistency and uniformity, if the strategy was to succeed. Klinsmann found that making his vision work was not an easy process.
It took time, patience and perseverance, and Klinsmann had to face protests from some clubs. “For example, we told the Bundesliga teams and coaches that their players needed to be fitter to play the kind of football we wanted to play. That meant carrying out fitness tests every three months, which did not go down well with some clubs because I was able to prove that some of them were training their players properly and others were not. Every club coach will have their own philosophy but I tried to work with those in the Bundesliga to build something together”.
As a test run as well as a long term measure, he asked for Germany’s Under-21 team to adopt this strategy. Klinsmann knew that the results would be ultimately measured by Germany’s performance in the 2006 world cup, “After a bad start, with a 4-1 defeat against Italy in a friendly 4 months before the World Cup, all of Germany was baying for my blood. But I kept on being positive, explaining that this was how I wanted us to play. I did not know if we would master it in time for the 2006 World Cup but we would give it a shot. Prelude to the World Cup 2006 Klinsmann and Jogi had the players for four full weeks before the tournament began and they were able to get our thoughts across. The players agreed to train the way they wanted them to and do extra work. Soon everybody started to believe in the system. “That was crucial because, no matter what your job is, you need to identify yourself with the work that you are doing and be happy. I was happy with this system, because, being a former center-forward, I could not visualize myself as the coach of a defensive-minded team.
I also think the players understood that I was the one taking the risk and that if it did not work out the DFB would send me packing back to California! ”, said Klinsmann. Results – World Cup 2006 Germany started well at the 2006 World Cup thumping 4-2 win over Costa Rica) and the public began to feel that something special was going to happen. In the second game, when they beat Poland with a last-minute goal, the whole nation celebrated joyously and said “yeah, that’s our team and that’s how we want them to play”. Germany lost in the semi-final against Italy but Klinsmann had laid the foundation for revitalizing German Football. After that World Cup, I was burned out after two years of banging my head against a wall but I made it clear to the DFB that Jogi had to take over after me to continue the job we had started. “ Carrying the legacy forward Jogi has continued to develop the initial style of play and enjoyed resounding success in Euro 2008 (finalists) and World Cup 2010. It has taken Germany six years to learn to play the new style properly – and it has developed along the way – but the players are completely comfortable with it now. After all, it is the players, coaches and clubs who have helped to make it work.
Germany’s young team eventually went out in the semifinals, but by then, its footballing ethos had been revitalized, the old notions of German football being boring, dull and painful on the eye have been banished completely. This German team seems cut out for greatness in the future. The young team has an average age of 24. 9, the second lowest among the 32 nations that participated in the world cup. The German team’s new identity – one of a flair team rather than a boring team, is also a reflection of a new multi-cultural German identity.
The team has players of Polish origin like Podolski and Klose, 3rd generation Turkish immigrants like Mesut Ozil, and African-origin players like Jerome Boateng and Sami Khedira. These players bring their own unique flavour and flair to the mix, while the whole team is held together by the traditional German spirit of determination personified by none other than their engine in midfield- Bastian Schweinsteiger. Analysis of Germany’s Strategy and its Implementation Pros(Advantages and opportunities) * Revitalized German Football, brought results (reached semis in WC 2006 and 2010.
Reached Finals in Euro 2008) after the disaster of Euro 2004. * German football’s image has been restored. No longer will German football be viewed as dull and boring. Germany will be associated with an effervescent and swashbuckling attacking style. This is an unprecedented shift in German football and has won plaudits and countless number of fans throughout the world. It has also become a source of national pride. * The imperatives of the strategy have been followed up by clubs in the Bundesliga.
As a result, the German Club football scene, once stagnant, has become vibrant again, with vastly improved standards of football and sell-out crowds turning out to watch closely contested matches between evenly matched top quality teams. Case in point (German club Bayern Munich reached the finals of the European Champions League 2010 for the first time in 10 years). * With the emphasis on attack, this strategy favours young players, and the core of Germany’s new squad is still quite young. This indicates a bright future for this team.
A constant feeder line of young talent seems to be emerging in the likes of Thomas Mueller, Mesut Oezil and co. Cons (disadvantages and risks) * Inconsistency in results:- Adventurous football is riskier than result-oriented football, and Germany’s recent performances reflect this. They have lost the consistency and dependability they had in their previous avatar. E. g. :- Lacklustre performances resulting in losses to minnows like Croatia (1-2) in Euro 2008 and Serbia (0-1) in 2010 support my point. * Inability of youth to handle pressure:- A youthful team without a few seasoned heads tends to buckle under pressure.
Germany has found it difficult to cross the penultimate and final hurdle on the last three occasions. (Semi-finalists in WC 2006 and 2010, Finalists in Euro 2008. Are Germany now the chokers of World football? ) * Succession Planning:- What will be the identity of German Football after Jogi Loew relinquishes the reins of managing the national team? Will they revert to “safety football” or will they be able to find someone willing to carry this experiment forward? References:- With inputs from an interview with Juergen Klinsmann published by the BBC
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