KLINSMANN WILL THANK SHOOT-OUT

GERMAN COACH JUERGEN KLINSMANN (celebrating Germany's win against Argentina) is most likely to keep his job after the World Cup.-AP GERMAN COACH JUERGEN KLINSMANN (celebrating Germany's win against Argentina) is most likely to keep his job after the World Cup.

A semi-final place seems a powerful argument to extend the contract of the architect of `NEW GERMANY', writes BARRY WHELAN.

Juergen Klinsmann's future may have hung on the lottery of a penalty shoot-out. The German coach spent all of an intense quarter-final against Argentina gesticulating in the coaching zone, urging his side to keep the pace up. But as the game in Berlin's Olympic Stadium ended after 120 minutes with both sides level on one goal apiece, he knew he was powerless. Only the week before the match he had said it would be a "catastrophe" if Germany were to go out at the quarter-final stage. The disaster has been averted as far as German football is concerned, thanks to their ability to win games on penalties. The 4-2 penalty shoot-out win over Argentina makes it four wins out of four in shoot-outs at World Cups for Germany. Klinsmann won't decide on his future until after the World Cup, but a semi-final place now seems a powerful argument to extend his contract. The World Cup has been a revelation for followers of the German team since Klinsmann, 41, took charge almost two years ago. The former international was very much a last resort to replace Rudi Voeller, who had surprisingly resigned after Germany's poor showing at Euro 2004 in Portugal. Nobody, it seemed, wanted the apparently impossible job of reviving a lifeless national team in time for the World Cup on home soil.

The German Football Federation (DFB) had already been snubbed by experienced coaches Otto Rehhagel and Ottmar Hitzfeld. It was running out of candidates when former coach Berti Vogts suggested giving Klinsmann a ring in California. Klinsmann grabbed the opportunity. He had already given a great deal of thought about what needed changing — basically everything, he said. There were knowing smiles all round when he said his aim was to win the 2006 World Cup. The experts in the game did not give him a chance; Klinsmann had not managed any team previous to his appointment. For years he had been living in California far from the day-to-day happenings of the Bundesliga. Moreover, he had no allies in the press or in the DFB.

The former Stuttgart, Bayern Munich, Inter Milan, Monaco, Tottenham Hotspur and Sampdoria player generated controversy from day one. He was not prepared to compromise, not even with the DFB. He immediately tore up plans to have the squad based in Leverkusen during the World Cup. He wanted to be in Berlin, the capital, the pulsating centre of energy of the new, reunified Germany, the venue for the July 9 final. It was a small but important message right at the start of Klinsmann's reign.

Others followed. Klinsmann cleared away the old structures and some of the former personnel. His own appointments were controversial, earning him criticism and sometimes derision. Among the new staff, he hired a sports psychologist, a scout from Switzerland and a team of physical trainers from the United States who understood nothing about football but everything about how to maximise the physical condition of the players.

Most importantly he sought to reform the style of play. He hated what he saw from Germany at Euro 2004. His side was going to play a more aggressive, faster game, dictating the play whenever possible — the sort of football played by the top teams in Europe, but crucially not in the Bundesliga.

Klinsmann was not impressed by the Bundesliga and did not win any friends in the German league by suggesting the clubs should be doing more on the fitness of their players. He also caused controversy by rotating his goalkeepers, the established number one Oliver Kahn of Bayern Munich and Jens Lehmann of Arsenal, insisting he would not name his first-choice goalkeeper until shortly before the World Cup began.

With a young defence often conceding goals, he consistently had to justify himself. In the end, under pressure from Bayern Munich who thought the uncertainty was putting unnecessary pressure on their 'keeper, he brought forward the decision and chose Lehmann.

All of the time Klinsmann continued to live with his family in California, a sore point for his critics who bemoaned his absence at Bundesliga matches, questioned the costs to the DFB of his first-class flights and complained when he caught a plane home the day after defeats. When he failed to appear at a coaching workshop in Dusseldorf earlier this year he was heartily lambasted by, among others, Franz Beckenbauer, president of the World Cup organising committee.

"There is a certain tendency for confrontation in Germany. It's a shame. We want to work with optimism and harmony but we are faced with overwhelming pessimism," Klinsmann said earlier in the year. The knives were out for Klinsmann after a 4-1 defeat to Italy in Florence in March. There were notable signs of nervousness at the DFB. Opinion polls showed fans becoming increasingly gloomier on the team's prospects as the World Cup neared. "The pessimism and the aggressive negativity could end up ruining all the preparations for the World Cup," complained Klinsmann.

Now he has proved the critics wrong. Now he is being hailed for his methods and for the refreshing way the team is playing. The German people once again identify with their national team. Die Welt newspaper reflected the opinion of many by saying it would be regrettable if Klinsmann, whose contract runs until the end of the World Cup, were to go now. "Among Klinsmann's important qualities is that both yesterday's critics and the back-slappers of today are equally unimportant to him," it wrote. He was "not an outstanding trainer but a first-class team chief". The current squad had lots of potential and with Klinsmann in charge "the development was bound to continue". DFB president Theo Zwanziger has made it clear he would like Klinsmann to stay on. Zwanziger said even after the group stage that he was more than convinced with Klinsmann's philosophy. But that is not enough for Klinsmann himself. The very minimum is being in the top four, he said. One small mission was accomplished in Berlin.

DPA