Germany had subscribed to a defensive mode of soccer pretty much since the dawn of man. Uninterested in earning style points, it wore down the opponent with flash-free efficiency and physicality.
Nowadays, the Germans attack as readily as any team and, consequently, are on the verge of claiming the World Cup. Credit the transformation to a coach who, ironically, was lambasted in some corners for his team's lack of offensive aggression at this event.
Before he began pulling Team USA's strings, the former German national team player was appointed his homeland's coach in advance of the 2006 Cup. Along with assistant Joachim Loew, now the man in charge, Klinsmann modernized the system.
"We eventually decided to go down an attack-minded route, passing the ball on the ground from the back to the front line as quickly as possible using dynamic football," he wrote.
He and Loew conducted workshops with coaches, then persuaded professional teams to operate academy programs so a radical proactive approach then to Germans could be imparted to upcoming players.
The overhaul was not unanimously accepted. In fact, according to a recently released book by the federation president at the time, soccer authorities were prepared to fire Klinsmann during the tournament if the concept didn't take hold.
Klinsmann remained employed as the less-constrained Germans impressively took the bronze model.
For other reasons, Klinsmann wore out his welcome and quit soon after. The U.S. coaching position appealed to him because soccer in his adopted country was not as set in its ways and could be more easily molded to his liking.
Should the Germans prevail in two more matches, they should at least send Klinsmann a thank-you note. Without him, they might still be stuck in a time warp, employing an antiquated style that curbs players' enthusiasm and fails to draw the best out of them.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times