COMMENT: The Germany boss has been heavily criticised over the last two years but every decision he has made during the World Cup has been vindicated
When Germany began their preparations for the 2014 World Cup with a 3-1 loss at home to Argentina in August 2012, few could have believed that Joachim Low would deliver glory in Brazil against the same opponents.
But on Sunday, thanks to Mario Gotze’s winning goal against Alejandro Sabella’s side, the 54-year-old can hold his head high after finally delivering on the promise his players have been showing for years.
Since his work began with the DFB 10 years ago, the former Stuttgart boss has gone about reinventing German football, bringing in young players to play an attractive brand of football, thrilling audiences across the world.
But, of course, that wasn’t enough. Football fans are demanding and the new-look Germany did not have the steely, winning mentality of the generation that preceded it.
In the wake of the Euro 2012 semi-final loss to Italy, frustration boiled over. Low’s decision to field Toni Kroos in the place of Thomas Muller was heavily criticised and people were calling for his head. Enough was enough, they said.
Since then, every move he has made has come under enormous scrutiny, not least in the build-up to the 2014 World Cup. His squad selection baffled some as he controversially left Marcel Schmelzer and Mario Gomez at home due to a lack of fitness.
Yet he was eager to find spaces in the squad for Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira, who were both coming back from knocks of their own. No one left at home was missed, however, and both midfielders were giants throughout in Brazil.
When it came to the tournament, Low switched from his long-standing 4-2-3-1 formation to a more unfamiliar 4-3-3. Too soon, some said, but again, Low was vindicated as Germany played wonderfully fluid football at times, digging in when they needed to.
He has never been afraid to make bold decisions. He elected to field Philipp Lahm in a defensive midfield role to give his side further security at the back, but when he realised it wasn’t working, he moved the Bayern Munich skipper to full-back, dropping Per Mertesacker, a 100-cap international.
His management of Miroslav Klose was excellent too. Out of the first team for the first few games, the veteran forward stepped up to claim the World Cup goalscoring record and make an impact in the latter stages.
Klose was there to come off the bench and rescue a draw against Ghana, the only opponents against whom Germany truly struggled and Low’s use of substitutions has been superb throughout the tournament.
Andre Schurrle settled the game in their favour against Algeria, scored two more against Brazil in the semi-finals and the coup de grace was introducing Mario Gotze in the final against Argentina, the 22-year-old netting the history-making goal.
Few can argue that Germany are deserved winners. To blow Portugal away 4-0 in their opening game, show the resolve they did to beat France in the quarter-finals and become the first European team to win the World Cup on South American soil, humiliating Brazil by a stunning scoreline of 7-1 and beating Argentina in the process, shows how good a team he has built.
"It began 10 years ago with Jürgen Klinsmann," Low said after the game. "Nobody deserves the title as much as we do. It is something special to be the first European team to win the World Cup in South America, here in Rio de Janeiro."
Schweinsteiger, Lahm and Klose aside, Germany have a young, vibrant side with an embarrassment of talent and Low is determined to build a dynasty. “We can play on top of the world for a few years yet, with some young players to reinforce the team,” he said before Sunday’s final.
One of the players who best defines the current generation, Mesut Ozil, spoke frankly about wanting to win the tournament for his trainer. "He's one of the best in the world. I hope he will finally be rewarded because we've lost in the semi-finals or final and it's so sad when you're so close."
Sunday was a moment of vindication for the coach and his players and Low has done it all his way. This is his team, playing his tactics and now winning in his way. And for that, Germany owes him a debt of gratitude. Many owe him an apology.