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Naismith urges SFA to play the long game over Strachan

IT has taken a decade for Joachim Low to bring Germany to within one final effort of placing themselves on top of the world.

Steven Naismith believes Germany's success in Brazil shows the advantages of having faith in your manager   Photograph: SNS
Steven Naismith believes Germany's success in Brazil shows the advantages of having faith in your manager Photograph: SNS

Two years as assistant to Juergen Klinsmann have been followed by a spell as head coach that has brought third place at the 2010 World Cup, the final of Euro 2008 and a place in the last four of Euro 2012.

It hasn't all been plain sailing, though. There has been criticism of the team's failure to get over the line and win tournaments, criticism of his loyalty to certain players and questions over using young and inexperienced men in friendly matches. But for all that, the German FA have stuck by him, offering him a contract extension in October that was destined to take him through to the next European Championship campaign no matter what happened in Brazil.

As Steven Naismith looks forward to facing up to Die Mannschaft in the bid to reach Euro 2016, he can't help but feel the Scottish FA should look at the policies adopted by Low's employers and see just what can be achieved by maintaining a resolute faith in the vision of one man.

Following some deeply disappointing times under the charge of George Burley and Craig Levein, the national team have enjoyed a renaissance of sorts over the last 18 months with Gordon Strachan at the helm.

There is a long way to go, though. Good teams at international level are not constructed overnight. Strachan needs a national association ready to stay solidly behind him should the next campaign take us into the trenches and Naismith believes one look at the Germany side widely fancied to overcome Argentina in the Maracana this evening shows the benefit of giving a trusted individual the freedom to develop a team and the space to let it evolve.

"The biggest compliment you can pay Germany is that they're so well-organised and every one of their players knows each other's game inside-out," said the Everton forward.

"It goes back to having a manager for so many years. That's what that gives you.We've had a great 18 months or so with Gordon Strachan and the longer we have him, the more we'll progress. The countries with long-term managers, who have consistently been challenging at major tournaments are the ones we have to look at."

In the eyes of many, Strachan could barely have a more intimidating start to his campaign to lead the nation to the finals of a major competition for the first time since 1998. Borussia Dortmund's thunderous Westfalenstadion will host his side on September 7 and few will fancy their chances of success, but Naismith is more than happy with the way the fixture schedule has worked out.

"The Germany game will be a tough one, but I prefer to start like that," he said. "You see it in club football where one or two top teams always drop points at the start of the season because they're not in their rhythm.

"There is no doubt Germany away is the hardest game for everyone in the group. If they've won the World Cup, though, there could be a wee bit of a hangover. Being realistic, the group is theirs to lose. I think Poland, Ireland and ourselves will all think we can get second place. The games against each other will be the key.

"We've been building towards this match against Germany ever since Brazil moved out of our reach, though. We're hoping to be hitting our peak at that time."

Naismith accepts that the headlines have been dominated at this World Cup by the likes of Thomas Mueller, still hoping to pip Colombia's James Rodriguez to the Golden Boot, and Miroslav Klose, fresh from becoming the all-time top scorer in World Cup history with 16 goals. However, he has been more impressed by the German defence and remains proud of the fact he performed well against their centre- back, Per Mertesacker, during a 3-0 win for Everton over Arsenal in April.

"Their defence is solid and they probably don't get great credit because it's 'just' solid and they make it look easy," he said. "It's hard work to be consistently that good.

"I enjoyed playing against Mertesacker. I only came on for a minute when we played Arsenal away, but, in the second match at Goodison Park, I played as a false No 9 and we won, so I'd settle for the same result and performance against him in September."

Naismith knows, however, that success against the Germans will depend upon getting the better of goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, a player he believes has become much more complete since Pep Guardiola took over from Jupp Heynckes at Bayern Munich. "Something he's added to his game since Guardiola became his manager is that he's rapid off his line," said Naismith. "He's a sweeper and he's taking the ball with his feet more. It is flawless now."

World Cup final preview: Page 10

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