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Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis

November 16, 2016
How Klinsmann handled a 2006 'disaster' with Germany

Jurgen Klinsmann has been forced to face some international blowouts before -- as German coach back in 2006.
Jurgen Klinsmann has been forced to face some international blowouts before -- as German coach back in 2006.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
By Michael Lewis Editor

It's always intriguing to see how people handle crises and disaster.

Perhaps my book, World Cup Soccer, 2006 edition, will give us a little insight into Jurgen Klinsmann, whose team dropped the first two games of the CONCACAF hexagonal, 2-1 at home to Mexico Friday night and 4-0 at Costa Rica Tuesday night.

This is part of the Germany chapter:

The March 2, 2006 headline in Kicker said it all:


Even in German, most English speaking soccer fans know what that meant: an embarrassing 4-1 debacle to Italy had transpired the previous night in Florence. "Mamma mia, we're bad!" German's biggest-selling daily Bild said on its front page. "Only 99 days to the World Cup and our national team is playing worse than before. If we play like that at the World Cup, we'll be obliterated."

With exactly 100 days to the kickoff of the World Cup, no one was expecting that result. And that from a country that has a work ethic in the international end of the sport that is second to none.

"We are all very disappointed," coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "It was a lesson for us above all in the first half. But it's over now and we cannot escape it. We have to face the criticism."

But Klinsmann didn't. Hew flew ran across the Atlantic to take refuse in his southern California home in Orange County. Adding fuel to the controversy was that Klinsmann conveniently missed a World Cup workshop for all 32 coaches in Dusseldorf several days after the game, taking refuge in the United States.

"It's incredible that he's not here," said German soccer great Franz Beckenbauer, the president of Germany's World Cup organizing committee. "As host country you have to be here. Nearly all the coaches are here. Carlos Alberto Parreira came from Brazil, Sven-Goran Eriksson came from England, but our head coach is not here. He should have been here. This is an obligatory meeting and he does not have all that many meetings that are obligatory. I don't want to say anything more about it because the more I think about it, the more drastic my choice of words will become."

They were drastic enough, considering Beckenbauer, a long-time backer of the coach, also criticized Klinsmann's performance as coach and the lack of progress by the team.

"At the beginning it worked out very well and Klinsmann was able to change a few things, but now there's mot much left of all that," he said. "We are back where we were a few years ago and time is running out."

Klinsmann retorted in the Bild newspaper: "I was in Germany for three of the last five weeks after the Bundesliga started up after the winter break. I've got my plan with everything necessary for the World Cup preparations. I've seen matches almost every weekend this winter, but I'm not someone who puts himself in the forefront."

I think that says a lot, if not, it all.

Of course, we all know what transpired at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. The Germans bounced back to finish third at home and the tournament was hailed as a success for Klinsmann's squad. Fortunately, he had the likes of scoring threats Miroslav Klose (Golden Boot winner) and Lucas Podolski (best young player) and midfielder Michael Ballack, among others.

I don't think you can say any, if many American players in the same breath as those standouts.

Klinsmann certainly has his work cut out for himself this time around.

And this time he can't run and hide in the United States. He lives here.
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