The EURO 2020 group stage match between the last two World Cup winners Germany and France should be taking place today. The coronavirus pandemic has meant that the tournament has been moved to next year. DFB.de spoke to national coach Joachim Löw and France coach Didier Deschamps about the postponed meeting and preparing for next year’s tournament.
Question: Mr Deschamps, Mr Löw. You should have been facing off in Munich today in the EUROs, however the coronavirus put pay to that. How have the recent times been for you?
Joachim Löw: Nobody at the start of the year would have imagined what has happened in the recent months and weeks. The whole world has been affected, not just France and Germany. I hope that people in France are okay, as we have a special relationship with France, not just from football. We have a strong connection, as well as a sporting rivalry, which is part of it. The coronavirus pandemic continues to keep the world in suspense. Although football is so important for so many people, the EUROs had to be moved from this summer. Health is the most important thing.
Didier Deschamps: We’re obviously all going through a very difficult time. Football is extremely important to people in lots of different ways. Nevertheless, in a situation like this, health has to be priority. Moving the EUROs to next year was a logical decision. The competition needs to be played under normal conditions, i.e. with fans from all the nations there and a buzz around the tournament coming from everywhere.
Question: Both of you will have to wait for your eighth clash as coaches of Germany and France…
Löw: Not being able to feel that excitement and tingle that I would have when we would be about to face the world champions France in EURO 2020 definitely hurts. The stadium would be sold out and a whole continent would be watching. I enjoy games against world-class teams, who have a world-class coach too. I’d gladly put my arm around Didier right now – I respect him immensely as a coach and as a person. You can only ever be excited to face one of your sporting rivals, especially when they are one of the best teams in the world.
Deschamps: We have all prepared for the tournament, but now we have to wait another year until we can all meet up again. It wouldn’t be appropriate to complain about the postponement, when you consider how people are suffering due to the virus across the world. The delay definitely hasn’t seen me lose any respect for Joachim. He was criticised after the 2018 World Cup, which can often happen to a coach after a setback. Do people really think that Joachim, who was the best in 2014, was now the worst four years later? I personally do not believe that. His career speaks for itself. Joachim is extremely competent; there are no doubts about that. I have a lot of admiration for his career, especially the World Cup win in 2014. He’s an open-minded and friendly guy, who has always been humble. The friendly on 13th November 2015 strengthened our relationship. In the hours after the attacks near the Stade de France in Paris, we made the decision together with the FFF president Le Graët to stay with the German team in the dressing room until we could go home. We experienced this dramatic event together. I’ll never forget that and I’m sure Joachim won’t either. The hours and minutes were very long. We weren’t opponents anymore. We were together and shared our concerns with one another. We have a sporting rivalry with Germany, but also a brotherly relationship.
Löw: I will never forget the time we spent together in the catacombs of the stadium. It was a key sign of the kind of strength football brings with it. We are rivals on the pitch, but off it in tough situations like this we are friends and we stick together – just like in the fight against corona.
Question: What are you expecting from the coming months?
Löw: The important thing is that we get through this crisis together. I think football has shown overall that it is aware of its role and responsibility in society. One thing is for sure: We will definitely appreciate being able to watch sporting highlights like a European Championship when we can again. I can barely wait to be back with the team. Our team will be extremely excited for 2021 and will go into the tournament with a lot of desire and hunger. We are a young team and we’re continuing to rebuild the side. We want to continue growing and hopefully improve as a team. I’m certain that France will still be one of the best teams in the world in 2021.
Deschamps: We don’t yet know who will be the fourth side in our group, but we’ve already got two tough opponents in Germany and Portugal. The first game in a tournament is always important, but not necessarily decisive. Having our first game against Germany isn’t easy. It’s even more difficult when it’s in Germany. They are a great team, who have been developing a new generation of players since 2018.
Question: You’re talking about the on-field aspects. Today would’ve been a meeting between the World Champions from 2014 and 2018. To what extent had you prepared for this particular opposition?
Löw: After the groups for the EUROs were drawn back in November 2019, we were looking at our opponents straight away. But you don’t have to take too long looking at France. France are France – absolutely world class. They have a really strong squad and are one of the top sides in Europe and the world. The names speak for themselves. From Fontaine to Platini, Giresse, Tigana, Vieira, Henry, Lizarazu, Pogba and on to Kanté, Griezmann, Coman and Mbappé. Deschamps too, of course (laughs). Didier was a great player. A leader, who always wanted to win and he displayed this winning mentality like no other. You can see that in the team. All of these big names in footballing history display passion, grace, power, tempo, dynamism and precision. I love to watch France play. And the UEFA Nations League gave us the chance to meet more often. France wouldn’t have shied away from us, quite the opposite in fact. I’m sure of that.
Deschamps: Germany have come a long way. Joachim has taken some strong and brave decisions, in which he chose to revamp a team, which won a lot. He believed that the team needed some fresh faces. It’s never easy to leave out players, who are still active and performing well for their clubs. He had to make some difficult human decisions. I saw that the Germans lost out on a bit of experience, but not on talent. Germany are still Germany, and they have some big players, who play for huge clubs. Physicality is still one of this team’s strengths, but they might have a bit more variation and creativity in their way of playing now.
Question: You haven’t been able to do any work on the pitch recently, but you’ve managed to do some analytical and conceptual work. How has that been? Can you give us an insight?
Löw: Yes, we’ve been fortunate to be able to watch our internationals in the Bundesliga. And I’m pleased that they’ve been fit and are making a good impression. They’re displaying a great desire and are desperate to be playing again. Of course the coaching staff are in constant exchange regarding these players, but also about our philosophy and our ideas, which form the basis of everything. I’ve often said that we don’t just want to be successful through fight, application and hard work. That’s what we Germans used to stand for. Didier will say the same. Our approach was to add some joy for the game and elegance to these German qualities. We want to score goals, have possession of the football, be brave and active and win the game. We’re permanently working on this. Naturally we’re hoping that we can play international football again in the Autumn.
Deschamps: There were no games for many weeks. Our main focus was to observe players in every club and league. We remain in contact with our coaching team in order to prepare for the Nations League, because EURO 2020 will take place after that. We’ll keep going and won’t rule anything out. The question is always the same when you’ve managed to win playing a certain way: can we continue to win by playing the same way? But there’s no obvious answer. A coach is always thinking about what he can change and develop in order to ensure continued good performances. There’s no right way to win. You can’t force changes, but you always have to think about them. I’m constantly considering it in order to be prepared should I need to find a different solution.
Question: It’s no secret that Germany has taken inspiration from the development of French football. The French FA built a performance centre in Clairfontaine, the DFB is currently constructing a similar facility – due to be completed at the end of 2021. How does this aid on-field development?
Löw: The conditions are great. France’s World Cup win in 2018 showed that they have benefitted from the education and possibilities afforded to them in Clairfontaine. We can happily predict that football in Germany will follow a similar path. With the new construction we’re getting a new home for sport, where exchanges can take place in closer proximity. It’s also important for Germany that both the top-level and grassroots game profit so that football develops together. With the new DFB centre and academy, we’re getting a compact grounds for conceptualisation, which should help teams and coaching. We’re already trying to implement some of the content. You can see that we’re on the verge of breaking out.
Deschamps: Clairfontaine is the home of French football, not just the senior men’s team. Our medical centre provides the best care for injured players. We educate our coaches, referees and young players in the Institut National du Football. Education is essential, and is very successful in France. Joachim won’t disagree, since German clubs are signing more and more French youngsters. Survival of French clubs hinges upon education. Germany don’t have these same worries, but it won’t hurt them to think about their own education. If they’re looking at what we’re doing, then it means we’re doing a good job. In general, you can always take in good ideas from elsewhere. You always need to look at what people are doing in other places, and how you can take inspiration from that, rather than just copying, because not everything will be applicable everywhere.