In 2019, the German national team found their way back to success. In an interview, national coach Joachim Löw reveals what grade he would give his newly formed team, why Germany aren't one of the favourites for EURO 2020 and why his upcoming 60th birthday gives him a slightly uneasy feeling.
Question: How does the national coach actually celebrate Christmas?
Joachim Löw: I'm looking forward to spending some time with family and friends at Christmas. It's always been very important to me - life is about more than just football.
Question: 2019 is coming to an end. The national team qualified as group winners for the European Championships and lost only one game. What grade would you give your team?
Löw: I would give them an A. In the end, the team did a really good job under really difficult conditions, there were a lot of formation and personnel changes and that's always a challenge. You can feel a lot of energy in the team, a good team spirit, and you feel like there will be a lot of success to come.
Question: What's missing for the A*?
Löw: Above all, we lacked continuity and consistency this year. Admittedly a lot of that comes down to personnel changes because we've had a lot of injuries. Every team that wants to win a big title at some point but I'd say we're a bit behind because there were always different players on the pitch or in the squad.
Question: Immediately after the European Championship draw, you looked satisfied despite the strong opponents. What do you think about it now?
Löw: I'm really excited. This is a group that has it all, and it will be a challenge for every team to get out of the group because there're all capable.
Question: So you're expecting some great games in Munich?
Löw: The group really captivates everyone. Germany against France, Germany against Portugal, even the third opponent could prove to be a tricky one - and that's just the group stage. Football fans love to see games like these.
Question: There is a lot of debate about whether your newly formed team is capable of winning it all. What do you think?
Löw: The development - individually and as a team - is not yet complete. We still need time. In a tournament, it also depends on how the players react, what the energy is like in the dressing room, whether or not there are injuries. We will prepare well, we want to play attractive football and of course we hope to survive the group stage. However, it's easy to forget that there are teams that have been playing together for a long time and are therefore one step ahead of us, teams like France, the Netherlands, England, Italy.
Question: But expectations are higher in Germany...
Löw: That applies to all major football nations, they are eager for a title and it's the same for us, but we also have to be realistic. Our team still has to develop - we suffered plenty of setbacks before we won the title in 2014. As the coach of this team though, I believe we have a great foundation with a lot of quality and we can compete for a title in the future. We won't be one of the favourites at the EURO 2020.
Question: What mistakes from the 2018 World Cup debacle do you want to avoid at the EM?
Löw: We all learned from the 2018 World Cup. In a tournament, all games are knockout games. Our self-confidence was very strong, we had a lot of experience, but now we are in a group with the world champion and European champion. Nevertheless, even if we played against a supposedly small football nation first, I would say: "Watch out, it's the first game!"
Question: The 2022 World Cup casts a shadow too, because of the winter date, meaning the national team has very little preparation time. Have you already started thinking about it?
Löw: I won't think about it for a minute in the next six months. My focus is entirely on our plans for EURO 2020.
Question: You will be 60 on February 3rd. How are you feeling about it?
Löw: It doesn't really matter to me, and I still don't know whether I'm celebrating or not. I never really plan birthday parties in advance.
Question: Does the number scare you a little?
Löw: I try not to get too hung up on it, but I do often think to myself: "60? You used to be able to retire at 60!" Times have changed, but 60 is different to turning 50 or 40, I have to admit.