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Klinsmann wants to secure lasting legacy

The German coach has carved out a different team with a new generation of players.
By Reuters | None, Geneva
UPDATED ON MAY 30, 2006 12:54 PM IST

Juergen Klinsmann wants to leave a legacy for the German game and he knows failure at his home World Cup would destroy that chance.

While other coaches at the June 9-July 9 tournament will be fighting to keep their jobs, the 41-year-old Klinsmann seems ambivalent about his future.

What he really wants is to see his ideas on playing, coaching and preparation fully accepted and for that to happen he will have to get the team at least close to a fourth World Cup triumph.

"If Klinsmann is not there, there must be someone else who really continues this philosophy," the former striker said at Germany's training camp in Switzerland.

"The German Football Federation cannot just say OK, after Klinsmann this guy, or this guy comes. There should be a line that can be followed," he said.

"But all the things that we've introduced will be measured by our success in the World Cup."

"Even if we lose a game in the knock-out stage, we'll still believe it was the right way to do it but in order to have more credibility and convince more people you need to have the results in your back pocket," he added.

"We're the home country and our goal must be to stay in the tournament until the end."

Klinsmann's eagerness to change German football has been clear ever since he took over from Rudi Voeller in the wake of the country's limp exit form Euro 2004.

The 1990 World Cup winning forward stripped Oliver Kahn of the captaincy and eventually promoted Jens Lehmann to number one keeper in his place.

In have come young players few Germans had ever even heard of, from Robert Huth and Thomas Hitzlsperger to the lightning fast winger David Odonkor.

He has also appointed a team of fitness specialists, led by the American Mark Verstegen, and a sports psychologist.

The style of play has changed, too. Gone are the safety first tactics of Voeller and previous coaches. Instead, Germany play with a fearless attacking style, even though Klinsmann must realise Michael Ballack is his only player of genuine world class.

"I think there have been two main changes in the past two years," Klinsmann said.

"We brought in a new generation of players so it's a completely different German team now, with a lot of talent. These are young players who realize they can keep up on an international level, as they saw against Argentina and Brazil."

"Secondly, we introduced a philosophy that was defined by this team. We sat down with the players in many meetings and said, 'what kind of football would we like to play? What is our identity? What do we stand for?' That was crucial," he asserted.

"We identified an attacking style, an aggressive style, getting the ball as fast as possible to the strikers and attacking midfielders."

Klinsmann has often bemoaned the fact that German football is behind the times, particularly in terms of youth development.

His two eye-catching young forwards, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lukas Podolski, clearly do have great talent, which has been honed by their clubs, but he sees Germany's great rivals as doing the job a lot better.

"The best example, and the best model for us is Holland," the coach said.

"They are able to choose their coaches by the philosophy that they have defined. Ajax will never have a coach with a defensive style. That will never happen."

The World Cup plotting has been done from Klinsmann's base out in California, where he continues to live despite sometimes virulent attacks from coaches, club bosses and the media, who think he should have moved back to Germany.

Klinsmann, whose team face Costa Rica, Poland and Ecuador in the first phase, is unrepentant.

"It was definitely an advantage, or is still, even if I continue afterwards, to go back and forth," he said.

"Living in the US gives you a different perspective. I learned from (US World Cup coach) Bruce Arena and from different coaches in different sports there. It widens your picture, definitely."

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