Germany coach Loew struggles to fend off criticism before Swiss test

Germany’s Joshua Kimmich, left, and Toni Kroos during a training session Monday of the German national team prior to the match against Switzerland. (AP)
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Updated 13 October 2020

Germany coach Loew struggles to fend off criticism before Swiss test

  • The Germans, by their own standards, have made a low-key start to the tournament

BERLIN: Germany host Switzerland on Tuesday amid sharp criticsm of the national team’s head coach Joachim Loew, who is still struggling to shake off the aftermath of their 2018 World Cup debacle.
By their own high standards, Germany have made a low-key start in the Nations League with two draws, against Spain and Switzerland, and a narrow win over Ukraine before facing the Swiss in Cologne.

A full-strength side scrapped a 2-1 win against Ukraine in Kiev on Saturday following three straight draws when the Germans leaked second-half goals on all three occasions.

On Tuesday, Toni Kroos is set to make his 100th appearance for Germany, but Julian Draxler, Marcel Halstenberg and Lukas Klostermann are all carrying knocks and are doubtful starters.

Injuries aside, Loew feels little need to “change much” in the starting lineup despite worrying signs in Kiev.

Only a fortunate Leon Goretzka header — after a rare mistake by Ukraine goalkeeper Heorhiy Bushchan — made the difference as the Germans often gave possession away cheaply.

“I see the big picture on the way to the European Championships,” Loew insisted with the Euro 2020 finals eight months away.

“We have a clear plan. We know what we are doing.”

Loew has a contract until 2022, but his popularity — which peaked when Germany won the 2014 World Cup — crashed after the 2018 finals in Russia, where the Germans failed to get out of their group.

Despite Loew’s promises to rebuild the side, Germany are still susceptible to lapses of concentration, as proven when they conceded three equalizers against Turkey.

German fans seem to agree with Loew’s critics amid disappointing recent television viewer figures for international matches in football-mad Germany.

Around 7.5 million tuned in to watch the win over Ukraine.

It was a slight improvement on the 6.77 million who saw last Wednesday’s 3-3 friendly draw against Turkey — 21.5 percent of the market, the lowest viewing figure in the 14 years since Loew took charge.

TV pundit Bastian Schweinsteiger, a key part of Loew’s 2014 World Cup team, told broadcaster ARD he feels “the public can no longer identify 100 percent” with the national team.

“It’s a pity. I hope things can be turned around soon,” he said.

After the draw with Turkey, Lothar Matthaeus, who captained West Germany to their 1990 World Cup win, slammed Loew for fielding players like Nico Schulz, who struggles to get a game for Dortmund.

“That is precisely why nobody turns on the television to watch Germany any more,” Matthaeus wrote in a column for German daily Bild.

Loew brushed off such criticsm.

“I have been experiencing different opinions for 16 years,” he said having first joined Germany’s coaching team back in 2004.

“You have to see where we have come from. After the World Cup in 2018, we were at the very bottom.”

But his critics can argue that there is little sign of development in the two years since.


Valcke and Al-Khelaifi brace for ‘Fifagate’ corruption trial verdict

Updated 34 min 38 sec ago

Valcke and Al-Khelaifi brace for ‘Fifagate’ corruption trial verdict

  • Prosecutors have called for a jail term of three years for Valcke, a 28-month sentence for Al-Khelaifi, who is also president of beIN Media
  • Valcke was the former right-hand man of disgraced FIFA President Sepp Blatter,

LAUSANNE, Switzerland: Former FIFA No. 2  Jerome Valcke and Paris Saint-Germain President Nasser Al-Khelaifi will discover Friday if their roles in the “Fifagate” scandal, regarding alleged corruption in the allocation of World Cup TV rights, are damning enough to land them a stretch behind bars.

That is when the Swiss Federal Criminal Court of Bellinzona, which conducted 10 days of hearings in September, will announce the verdict on the two men, along with Greek businessman Dinos Deris.

Prosecutors have called for a jail term of three years for Valcke, a 28-month sentence for Al-Khelaifi, who is also president of beIN Media, and 30 months for Deris — with partial suspension in all three cases.

It will be the first judgement handed down in Switzerland, the seat of most international sports organizations, in the 20 or so proceedings opened in the last five years involving FIFA. Two former Latin American football leaders have been jailed in the US.

Valcke, the former right-hand man of disgraced FIFA President Sepp Blatter, was on trial on two charges related to his quest for money to maintain what Federal Prosecutor Joel Pahud called a “spendthrift” lifestyle.

Al-Khelaifi is included in the first charge.

BACKGROUND

It will be the first judgement handed down in Switzerland, the seat of most international sports organizations, in the 20 or so proceedings opened in the last five years involving FIFA.

The public prosecutor’s office said Valcke sought the Qatari’s help in the summer of 2003 to buy a luxury villa in Sardinia, at a time when beIN, a Qatari-owned broadcaster, was negotiating the extension of its media rights in North Africa and the Middle East for the 2026 and 2030 World Cups.

The prosecutor said Al-Khelaifi acquired the house for five million euros ($5.85 million), via a company that was transferred almost immediately to the brother of one of his close collaborators, before it was made available to Valcke.

The two men denied a “corrupt agreement” and said the deal was a “private” arrangement, unrelated to the contract concluded by beIN with FIFA in April 2014.

The prosecution said Valcke committed to “do what was in his power” to ensure beIN would win the contract and should have declared the Villa Bianca deal to his employers. They said he had been pressured by Al-Khaleifa to damage FIFA’s interests illegally.

The defense argued that the trial was “muddied” by the revelation of informal meetings between former Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber and current FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

Lauber resigned from his post in July and both men are under investigation for suspected collusion.

Al-Khelaifi’s lawyers have told AFP that the charges against their client are “clearly artificial.” 

The Swiss prosecutors had to drop a charge of corruption because of an out-of-court settlement in January between Al-Khelaifi and FIFA, which then withdrew its complaint against him.