BERLIN (AP) — Germany coach Joachim Löw will step down after this year's European Championship, bringing forward his previous plan to quit after the next World Cup.
The German soccer federation said Tuesday that Löw asked to terminate his contract, which was to run through the 2022 World Cup, after this year's European tournament.
Löw is the longest-serving coach of a national team and has been in charge for 189 games. He took over after the 2006 World Cup and had been assistant coach to Jürgen Klinsmann for two years before that.
“I’m taking this step very consciously, full of pride and with gratitude, but still with the same motivation for the upcoming European Championship,” Löw said. “Pride, because it is something very special for me and an honor to be engaged for my country. And because I have been able to work with the best players in the country for almost 17 years.”
Löw led Germany to the 2014 World Cup title, its fourth overall, but he has been under pressure since a first-round exit at the last World Cup and subsequent lackluster performances.
Löw wanted a shake-up of the team after the disappointing World Cup in Russia, and he axed the experienced trio Thomas Müller, Jérôme Boateng and Mats Hummels to make room for younger players. But they haven't been able to make the step up.
Germany produced one disjointed performance after another last year with labored wins over Ukraine and the Czech Republic. It conceded late equalizers against Spain, Switzerland and Turkey before the team's last game ended in a 6-0 loss to the Spanish in the Nations League in November. That was Germany's biggest losing margin since a 6-0 result against Austria in a friendly in Berlin in 1931.
“Big triumphs and painful defeats, but above all many wonderful and magic moments — not only the 2014 World Cup win in Brazil," Löw said. "I will remain thankful to the federation for always providing myself and the team an optimal working environment.”
Federation president Fritz Keller said Löw's decision to quit after the European Championship is “highly respectable” because it gives the governing body “the necessary time to name his successor calmly and with a sense of proportion.”
While there is no clear favorite, the names of Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick, who was formerly Löw's assistant with Germany, Liverpool coach Jürgen Klopp, Ralf Rangnick and Germany under-21 coach Stefan Kuntz have all been mentioned as possible successors by German media.
Keller thanked the 61-year-old Löw for his service.
“The federation knows what it has in Jogi. He is one of the biggest coaches in world soccer,” Keller said. “Jogi Löw has shaped German soccer like none other for years and helped it to the highest levels internationally.”
There was praise, too, from Bundesliga rivals Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, among others.
“Joachim Löw has overseen a hugely successful era for German soccer crowned by the 2014 World Cup win in Brazil,” Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said.
Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke said Löw's decision deserves “respect,” and he called on “everyone in German soccer to play their part in giving Joachim Löw the big send off he deserves in the summer.”
Löw said he would do all he can at the European Championship, which was postponed last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Germany has been drawn in a group with World Cup champion France, European champion Portugal and Hungary.
“I'll give my best to make our fans happy and to be successful at this tournament,” Löw said.
Germany next plays World Cup qualifiers against Iceland and North Macedonia on March 25 and 31, respectively.
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