Bierhoff: Germany can top weary Spain at Euro 2012

Germany general manager Oliver Bierhoff hopes Spain’s players

will be too tired after a grueling club season to defend their

European Championship title next year, when he expects his squad to

reach its peak.

Germany’s vibrant, young side reached the semifinals at last

year’s World Cup before losing to Spain, which followed its Euro

2008 triumph by capturing the global crown.

But Bierhoff, who oversees the development of the national game

in Germany, doesn’t anticipate the Spanish being as strong at Euro

2012.

”Spain is for sure at the moment the best team in the world,”

Bierhoff said on the sidelines of the SoccerEx conference in

Manchester. ”Hopefully, perhaps in another year, the players

having success with Barcelona and other teams are getting a little

bit tired, a little bit older.

”We have a very young team, but we know that when you start a

tournament you start from scratch.”

The fact that more than 50 percent of players in the Bundesliga

have come up through club youth systems has created a greater

competition for places for the national team, which also reached

the 2006 World Cup semifinals.

”I can see the difference in our players from 2006 to 2010, the

young players coming now are better technically educated, more used

to the media, physically much better,” Bierhoff said. ”In 2006 we

still had problems with a lack of speed and technical issues. With

these young players you can see they have had a good education in

the clubs’ technical centers.”

But Bierhoff, whose goal clinched Germany’s win in the Euro ’96

final, is concerned that the Champions League has overtaken the

World Cup as the ”pinnacle” for players.

”Financially, 20 years ago it was more important for a player

to play in the national team than now,” the former AC Milan

striker said. ”Now he gets very well paid by his club and the club

has a huge interest in him not getting injured, the Champions

League is becoming more and more important.

”(The national teams) don’t pay our players anywhere near what

they get for their clubs so it is more a matter of pride at being

selected among the 20-23 best players in the country.”

Players are also too focused on making money out of commercial

deals.

”They get more tired psychologically – we see it with our

players now with all these things around; media, personal sponsors,

club sponsors,” Bierhoff said. ”The peak for the top players is

becoming narrower and narrower. Once you had a 10-year career at

the top and the brilliant players did it at the World Cup.

”Now, after three or four or five years, it seems like the

player is gone. Look at Ronaldinho, Ronaldo (of Brazil) and other

players.”

Bierhoff along with coach Joachim Loew introduced a disciplinary

code designed to stop players becoming ”spoilt brats.”

”After training they would just come in and throw their dirty

shirts and socks and shorts down and leave it for the kit man to

tidy up,” he said. ”Now they do it themselves. They turn their

shirts inside out, they put all the socks and shorts together.

”We needed to change the atmosphere after Euro 2004. It had

seemed to the people that the players didn’t want to play for the

team, that it was not fun. But in Germany the national team is an

icon, it is the property of the people so we needed the players to

be able to bond together. We helped them develop responsibilities

to help them grow as people because we wanted them to respect not

only their fellow players but the staff who worked with them.”

Germany was beaten on Tuesday for the first time since last

year’s loss to Spain at South Africa 2010, with Australia winning

the friendly 2-1.

”The strategy of the coaches is to try to introduce younger

players at a moment when you are not forced to introduce them so

they have time to grow and develop,” Bierhoff said.