Loew closing in on crowning moment at Euro

 Joachim Loew heads to Warsaw for tomorrow's Euro 2012 semi-final against Italy edging ever closer to the elusive title which would underline his status as one of Germany's top coaches.

The 52-year-old, who German fans affectionately refer to simply as "Jogi", took charge in 2006 and has long since been told by Germany's football bosses that his job is safe until the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and beyond.

Having taken Germany to the Euro 2008 final and third-place at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Spain thwarted Germany's title ambitions on both occasions and la Roja linger again on the other side of the Euro 2012 draw.

Germany have justified their pre-tournament status amongst the favourites here and having brought the youngest of the 16 teams to Poland and Ukraine, Loew's side are now on a record 15-match winning streak in competitive games.

The last time Germany lost at a tournament was when they were beaten 1-0 by Spain in the 2010 World Cup semi-final.

After 10 wins in qualifying for Euro 2012, they won the so-called "Group of Death", beating Portugal, Holland and Denmark in the process then demolished Greece 4-2 in Friday's quarter-final.

"We all agree that in Loew and (team manager Oliver) Bierhoff we have the best pair possible," Wolfgang Niersbach, the president of the German Football Federation (DFB) has said.

"They both do excellent jobs and so we see no reason to change a winning formula."
Despite his impressive 57 wins in 82 internationals with 13 draws and 12 defeats in six years, Loew needs the Euro 2012 crown to be considered one of Germany's outstanding coaches.

Other than a title, his record compares favourably with other German coaches Franz Beckenbauer, who coached the 1990 World Cup winning team, and Berti Vogts, whose side won Euro 96. Loew's legacy so far has been to inject pace and patience into the attack and built on the Germans' reputation for solid defence.

A self-confessed fan of youth, Loew has made sure the Bundesliga's rising stars have had a clear run to the national side and is not afraid to drop any big name resulting in fierce competition for places in the starting line-up.

"I am only focused on success and improving this team as much as I can, nothing else interests me," said Loew when asked about his growing status in Germany.

"I have always said I favour youth over experience and the competition for places in the team is healthy."

Loew showed his daring in the win over the Greeks when he dropped striker Mario Gomez, who had netted three goals in three games here, plus star forwards Thomas Mueller and Lukas Podolski.

Attacking midfielder Marco Reus made his tournament debut and rewarded Loew's trust with Germany's fourth goal in an eye-catching performance.

Loew's first criteria for selection is form either in training or in matches, as ex-captain Michael Ballack, 35, discovered in 2010 when back-to-back injuries saw the former Chelsea star dumped from the squad.

Another factor, though, may have been the pair's public spat two years earlier, when Ballack accused Loew of not showing his senior players enough loyalty.

That theory was disproved when 34-year-old Miroslav Klose made his first Euro 2012 start against Greece to make his 120th appearance and headed his 64th goal to leave him just four short of Gerd Mueller's all-time Germany record.

Despite a poor build-up to Euro 2012 in May when a shock 5-3 defeat in Basel to Switzerland was followed up with an uninspiring 2-0 win over Israel in Leipzig, Loew's team have again shown they are a tournament side.

With their team last having won a title 16 years ago, Loew can expect plenty of love from a delirious German public if his team win Sunday's final in Kiev and bring the trophy back to Frankfurt.

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