To call bierhoff a pessimistic person would be mistaken, then. After all, the team manager of the german national soccer team is known for his positive charisma. That’s also why jurgen klinsmann gave him the then brand-new job at the DFB nine years ago. When thinking about the world cup in brazil in 15 months’ time, however, bierhoff is somewhat worried.
"This will be the most difficult tournament in our career," bierhoff warned. The giant country between the copacabana and the amazon commands such "great respect" from the former national striker and european champion of 1996 that he has called the title win for the german team on 13. July 2014 in the legendary maracana in rio de janeiro "actually an impossibility" called.
Joachim low quickly brushed away the doubts about the DFB’s title ambitions that followed the unusual statement. Everything will be given for the big dream, assured the national coach. Wolfgang niersbach was also quick to respond: "our forecast remains the same. We will qualify and want to be among the title favorites," said the DFB president. And bierhoff explained his statement as a warning: "the world cup is going to be a tough one, and it was important for me to point out that the world cup is not a foregone conclusion."
Even low and niersbach know that the 2014 mission has its pitfalls – regardless of the great soccer whirl through mesut ozil and co. "Of course, the conditions are difficult. Even south africa 2010 was easier," said the DFB head coach. In any case, bierhoff faces the most complicated task of his managerial career in the coming months. The crux is the tournament logistics in the world’s fifth-largest country with 8.5 million square kilometers and an infrastructure that will require an enormous amount of patience and time from all world cup riders. Germany fits into brazil almost 24 times over in terms of area.
The top priority is to find suitable accommodation. This is to make the expected travel stress bearable and to avoid temperature fluctuations of more than 20 degrees. In south africa, the luxury hotel on the outskirts of pretoria was not the best choice, but this only became clear during the tournament. At the 2012 european championship, the team had to shuttle three times from poland to ukraine. Less than happy, bierhoff returned from an initial inspection trip to brazil in the fall of 2012. What he had seen with the DFB delegation obviously did not yet meet the high standards.
The world governing body FIFA is now aware of the concerns of the major soccer nations. The official team hotel brochure was increased in quantity from just over 50 to 70 offers. The question of quality remains. Not only a nice hotel is needed, but also professional training conditions and a suitable airport connection. When low himself travels to brazil for the first time in june for the confederations cup, he will at least be able to inspect even more hostels. "Logistically, this is the most challenging thing we’ve faced in the last ten years," said the national coach.
The dilemma is also rooted in the world cup game plan. Although the draw on 6. December in costa do sauipe germany will pretty much be seeded as one of eight group heads, low’s selection will have to crisscross the country already in the preliminary round. Distances of several thousand kilometers will have to be bridged – in the worst case, even to manaus in the amazon region with extreme humidity of over 80 percent. "We have no planning certainty because we don’t know which group we’ll be playing in," bierhoff lamented. But deciding on a hotel after the draw is out of the question, because the competition is already busy in brazil.
Bierhoff has already ruled out a base camp "in the extreme north or south", also because of the different climatic conditions. The coastal cities of recife and fortaleza have fallen through the DFB cracks. But if the draw puts low’s team in group G, the preliminary round would be played there and in salvador, "only" 800 kilometers away. A tempting alternative, but low and bierhoff do not want to engage in vabanque.
What remains is the region in the central triangle of the brazilian soccer metropolises rio de janeiro, sao paulo, belo horizonte. 39 of the 70 proposed FIFA quarters are located there. The problem: almost all potential world cup participants now want to go there. In belo horizonte, the local governor has already proudly reported visits from greece, belgium, japan, mexico and italy. The latter three have the advantage of having qualified for the confederations cup this summer, unlike germany. The opportunity for this sporting and logistical world cup dress rehearsal was lost by the DFB team when it was eliminated in the european championship semifinals against italy.