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 is there to guide them is unclear.

Loew has remained silent on his future after contract extension

negotiations with the federation broke down and a decision is

expected soon after the world Cup.

But Loew says the multicultural group he picked on 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 and the coach said his team wanted to end

the tournament with a strong performance.

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

coach, who has the best won-lost ratio of all Germany coaches, fell

out with the federation in February over several issues, including

financial compensation and staffing decisions.

The 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 side 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 at its best and

had its shortcomings exposed.

“We can learn from this game, we are on a good way,” Loew’s

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. Ballack 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 and we felt it wouldn’t be

appropriate to have a party,” Lahm said.