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A triumph built on German efficiency and milkshakes

In late May, as the Germany football team gathered at their World Cup training camp in Italy, news broke that manager Joachim Loew had been stripped of his driver's licence for six months after a series of speeding tickets.

Joachim Loew left no stone unturned as he plotted Germany's World Cup victory . Picture: Darren Staples/Reuters
Joachim Loew left no stone unturned as he plotted Germany's World Cup victory . Picture: Darren Staples/Reuters

Days earlier, Kevin Grosskreutz, a versatile defender, had been caught urinating in the lobby of a luxury hotel in Berlin. Julian Draxler and Benedikt Hoewedes, attending a public relations event, had been involved in a high-speed car crash that seriously hurt two pedestrians.

The troubled start fuelled public panic about Loew's coaching strategies. The training camp, designed to get the players ready for the tropical heat of Brazil, was beset by cold temperatures and heavy rain. Then, in a friendly against Armenia before their departure for Brazil, Germany lost Marco Reus, one of their best players, to injury.

With a "golden generation" of some of the best players Germany has produced, there is little doubt the pressure on the 54-year-old Loew was building as he set off for Brazil. Eighty one million Germans - desperate for a fourth world title after wins in 1954, 1974 and 1990 - felt it was time for the sharply dressed, mop-haired manager to deliver or go.

The "Bundestrainer" had taken his talent-laden team to the semi-finals of their last four major international tournaments, but failed to win a trophy. That was not good enough in a country where the World Cup has been an integral part of post-World War II identity ever since the 1954 "Miracle of Berne".

That improbable triumph, historians say, gave the bombed-out nation such a boost it helped spark West Germany's economic miracle. So how did they overcome all their problems to go on to beat the hosts Brazil in a sensational 7-1 semi-final thrashing before edging Argentina 1-0 in extra-time in the final?

The answer: attention to detail, ignoring distractions and milkshakes. Talking to reporters after arriving at Germany's Brazilian base in Santo Andre, an isolated town on the Atlantic shore, Loew outlined his thoughts.

"People are going to have different opinions on the lineup and on the tactics," he said. "But I'm going to try to stay away from of all that."

More than any other squad at the World Cup, Loew and his players treated each of their six matches as warm-ups along the way to the final. Victories in the group stage and the early knock-out phase brought not celebrations but a round of banana milk shakes at the compound.

With customary German thoroughness, Loew and his coaches were as well-prepared as possible. They spent two years focusing on everything from tactics to vegetation. A team of 50 students compiled an enormous database on every team, their strategies and players.Staff took care to make sure the grass on their training pitch was "South American" and identical to that used in Brazilian pitches.

Loew picked the base because it was two hours flying time from the bright lights of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. He wanted his players to be in a tropical part of Brazil to prepare for the scorching conditions they would experience. To blot out distractions further a deal was struck with a German developer in Brazil to build a 14-villa luxury compound they dubbed "Campo Bahia". The fortress was protected by high walls and armed guards.

The camp's isolation meant no distractions, no sponsors, no well-wishers and no journalists. Only the odd player and occasionally an assistant coach were sent to answer questions. Loew attended just two conferences in five weeks and bluntly told reporters he was not reading newspapers. The team were issued with new mobile phone numbers, effectively cutting off their media contacts.

"Sorry, I don't have my cell phone anymore so I can't get your text messages," Loew told one exasperated reporter.

In Brazil, he vowed he would not be burned as he was at Euro 2012 and rejigged his high-scoring team to give it more defensive strength by including four centre-backs. The move was widely criticised. The German public wanted attractive, high-scoring victories. To critics, Loew also committed a cardinal sin by putting Phillip Lahm, considered to be the world's best right-back, into midfield for the first four matches. When a reporter accused Loew of appearing to be content with the shaky 2-1 win over Algeria in the last 16, Loew snapped. "Should I really be disappointed that we made it to the quarter-finals?" he said.

On Sunday night, Loew smiled for the first time in weeks and said he was keen to fulfil his contract, which has two years to run.

"This is something for eternity," he said. "It took 10 years of hard work to get here."

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