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Interview: Klinsmann Cool Under Pressure

Jürgen Klinsmann took the reigns of Germany's national soccer team almost a year ago. DW-WORLD spoke with him about next year's World Cup as well as about his team's success and German soccer's image abroad.

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Klinsmann in conversation with DW-WORLD head Guido Baumhauer

DW: Year one of the Klinsmann era is almost behind us. From nine games the national team has played with you at the helm, they've only lost one, to South Korea . How would you take stock of the team's performance thus far?

Jürgen Klinsmann: I think our record is a very, very positive one, above all, because we have grown together as a team, and not just as a new coaching staff. We complement each other very well. We've brought people on board who have brought enormous talents with them. For example, I'm thinking of areas like overall fitness, and the fact that we have been able to bring over coaches for that from the US. There's also our sports psychologist, who we have integrated into the team...

…and the red jerseys?

…the jerseys, they look really good, but they aren't going to be scoring any goals for us. I think that the way the team has performed in the last ten months, with style and pizzazz, and all the enthusiasm they've shown in every game, it's simply fantastic. It is incredibly fun to work with this team. There's a lot of potential there, and that gives us the confidence to say during the World Cup here at home: we want to play for the title!

Before the World Cup, the Confederations Cup is taking place, from June 15 - 29. Eight teams are playing for the trophy, among them Germany and top teams such as Brazil and Argentina . Who do you think will win?

Naturally, I hope we do! And logically, if one says one wants to win the World Cup title here in Germany, then for the Confederations Cup, which is often called a test, miniature World Cup, we have the same goal.

So for you, the Confederations Cup is a real test run?

Jürgen Klinsmann Bundestrainer Porträtfoto im Gespräch mit Guido Baumhauer (nicht im Bild)

Jürgen Klinsmann

It is a test run for us. Every single game will give us more information about the team's performance standard. There is also a bit of ambition involved. When a team participates in a contest like this, you not only measure yourself against very good teams from around the world, you also want to beat countries like Argentina or Brazil. Even if the season was a very long one for the players, that provides enough incentive for all of us to really get out there and give it our all.

And if the plan doesn't work out like you want with the World Cup? Do you feel under pressure?

Yes, but that's normal in soccer. If you carry the responsibility and things don't go well, you get into hot water. That would surely be the case if we don't perform well, but if I were to think along those lines, I wouldn't be the right man for this job. I have taken on this position with a lot of optimism. If it doesn't go as planned, then the avalanche is going to come, like it or not. But that would happen with anyone.

If it came down to playing a beautiful game or winning, which would you choose?

Both! Both are important. Of course, we want to play an attractive game of soccer. I think we've shown in the last ten months that we have laid a good foundation for that, that we have a team that can play up front, fast and aggressively. It's a style of playing that will bear fruit for us. We have also pursued a new philosophy in which the players identify themselves with their role in the national team. It's important that a certain self-image is anchored in the minds of our players that when it comes to the national team, they give it all they've got!

Can Germany itself benefit from this kind of positive attitude you're describing? What would a World Cup victory mean for Germany ? How important is a good performance by the German team?

I think the team demonstrated how that can help already this year in the European Cup. Whether it was in the game here in Berlin against Brazil, where the fans showed incredible enthusiasm, or the game in Iran in front of 120,000 spectators, where the team was able to bring the Iranian population over to its side.

streetfootballworld festival 06 Bundestrainer Jürgen Klinsmann in Berlin-Kreuzberg bei einem Streetball-Turnier

Jürgen Klinsmann kicking the ball around at the opening of the Street Soccer Festival in Berlin

We want to build on this positive attitude and we want our players to be aware of the fact that in a way, they act as ambassadors for Germany, since we will be observed very closely by the entire world during the upcoming World Cup. Everything is going to be reported about, whether it's about the national team, the cities, or the people who live in Germany. We want to put forward a fantastic image and show people that Germany has developed in an incredibly positive way, naturally also after reunification.

You yourself live abroad. How would you describe the image of German soccer outside of this country?

I think that in general, there's a great respect for German soccer abroad, something which of course has been stamped by our three world championship titles and three European championship titles. People know that when it comes to tournaments, the German team is always able to concentrate on the essentials. We know that our opponents have a lot of respect for us. As far as our domestic teams go, the situation this year hasn't been all that positive, since they fell out of the running for the European Cup relatively early. We lost a little bit of our standing there, but we can win that back very quickly.

How much has been lost due to the referee scandal?

The referee affair has certainly cost us in the eyes of the world, since most people couldn't imagine that such a thing could happen in Germany. We stand for other kinds of values, such as straightforwardness, honesty and a serious business mentality. The scandal hurt us, no doubt about it, but on the other hand, people abroad have been very impressed with the way the German Football Federation handled the affair and how consistent they have been in their actions, such as finding those who are guilty and making them pay the consequences.

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