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Baker's son gets the right mix

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June 21, 2006 02:46 IST

A rare thing happened when the players left the field at the Olympiastadion with Germany 2-0 up on Ecuador at half-time in Tuesday's World Cup Group A match.

Suddenly the crowd, encouraged by Germany's performance and Miroslav Klose's two goals, began chanting the name of the man clad in black jauntily descending the steps into the dressing room with his players.

Juergen KlinsmannThe name on everyone's lips was Juergen Klinsmann and for the first time since the hosts finished third in the Confederations Cup a year ago, the fans were voicing their approval for "Klinsi".

The only other place he has been so popular was at White Hart Lane in the 1990s when Tottenham Hotspur fans took him to their hearts and where he single-handedly helped transform the image of German football in England.

For the last two years he has had the harder task of attempting to transform the image of German football in his own country.

There is no denying the feel-good factor is growing and Germany's 3-0 win over Ecuador on Tuesday means the home fans have high hopes for the last 16 and beyond, with praise being heaped on Klinsmann.

It has not always been the case.

Klinsmann's insistence on living in California since being appointed coach in 2004 and controversial decisions in the build-up to the World Cup earned him widespread criticism.


Having so many German greats closely watching his every move, with none of them being slow to expound their views in the media at every opportunity, has not made the job any easier for the 41-year-old former World Cup winner from Stuttgart.

But Klinsmann is his own man and has kept his feet firmly on the ground throughout his career.

At 16, with a contract at VfB Stuttgart waiting for him, Klinsmann worked in the family baker's shop helping his mother and father from six in the morning to six at night.

He is almost certainly the only national coach here with a diploma in baking and he certainly appears to be getting the mix right with the German side.

Klinsmann is a pragmatist and has got Germany playing to their strengths.

Unable to call upon the kind of talent he brought to the West Germany team which won the 1990 World Cup, he has put his faith in previously untried players like Lukas Podolski, Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Jens Lehmann.

So far none of them have let him down.  

Michael Ballack is the one player in this team that could have walked into the West German sides Klinsmann graced in the 1980s and 1990s.

Ballack would have had no problem holding his own alongside Lothar Matthaeus, Rudi Voeller, Pierre Littbarski and Klinsmann.

The fact he came through Tuesday's match with no booking and a clean disciplinary sheet for the knockout stages was another big boost for Klinsmann.

Mike Collett
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