German team will be back for more, but will Loew?

Germany’s young players will be older, more experienced and

quite possibly better by the time of the next World Cup. Whether

coach Joachim Loew will be there to guide them is uncertain.

Loew has remained silent on his future after contract extension

negotiations with the German soccer federation broke down. A

decision is expected soon after the World Cup ends Sunday.

The coach says the group he picked – a multicultural team

playing with flair and skill – has a bright future no matter who is

leading it. Germany reached the semifinals for the third straight

tournament and can finish third, just as it did four years ago at

home.

“This team will remain together,” Loew said after Wednesday’s

1-0 semifinal loss to Spain. “This team has very good players and

many possibilities. No matter who is in charge, it will stay

together. The team’s development is not at its end, it has just

began.

“We wanted to achieve a lot and we are disappointed not to have

gone through to the final. But I must give my players compliments

how they played at this tournament. We gave everything. We gave our

best.”

Loew’s team will now play Uruguay in Saturday’s third-place

match in Port Elizabeth, with the coach saying his team wants to

end the tournament in style. The Germans could be without striker

Miroslav Klose, who has a back injury.

The game also could be Loew’s last in charge. The 50-year-old

coach fell out with the federation in February over several issues,

including pay and staffing decisions.

Federation president Theo Zwanziger has said he would like Loew

to stay and the players also have backed him.

“We need a good coach and he’s a very good coach,” captain

Philipp Lahm said. “But it’s not our decision.”

Lahm said the team was disappointed by the semifinal loss to

Spain, the team that also beat Germany 1-0 in the 2008 European

Championship final. That was Loew’s first major tournament in

charge.

“But we played a very good tournament here. We have a lot of

quality and we’ll work more to be able to play for the title

again,” Lahm said. “It’s good that I have a few more years ahead

of me. We have the chance to mix it up with the top teams for years

to come.”

Germany arrived in South Africa with its second-youngest World

Cup team ever and unsure of its true potential. A 4-1 victory over

England in the second round and then 4-0 over Argentina raised

hopes of the country’s fourth World Cup title.

But Germany ran into a very polished Spain team performing at

its best and had its shortcomings exposed.

“We can learn from this game,” Loew assistant Hansi Flick said

Thursday. “These young players can develop further and we can work

to achieve a higher technical level. There is a lot of potential in

this group and a great team spirit.

“We can play very good football and our attack was

world-class.”

Germany faces another tricky decision. Michael Ballack, its

longtime captain and leader, missed the World Cup with an ankle

injury. He wants to return – but Lahm wants to keep the

captaincy.

“I spoke honestly. When it’s fun you want to continue and I am

having fun. It’s not a power struggle, the power is with the coach.

I have no problem whatsoever if Ballack comes back and wants the

captaincy. It’s not my job to say who gets it,” Lahm said.

“I am not going to give him back my armband voluntarily but I

have no problem if the coach gives it back to him.”

Germany will be flying home Sunday and, unlike four years ago

when the team showed up at a stage in Berlin to be celebrated by

tens of thousands of home fans, there will be no party this

time.

“We wanted more than third place,” Lahm said. “We felt it

wouldn’t be appropriate to have a party.”