RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Joachim Loew has shaped a talented German generation into an entertaining and successful team with a history of near misses. Germany needs to beat Argentina in Sunday's World Cup decider to finally make Loew a winner.
Loew's achievements and the innovations he has brought into German football will always be recognized. But unless he wins the title his tenure will be regarded as a partial success, even considering the astounding 7-1 win over Brazil in the semifinals.
Loew's job is secure - his contract had been extended through the 2016 European Championship before the World Cup. But if Germany fails to beat Argentina at the Maracana and falls short of the title in Loew's fourth straight tournament in charge, he may not be able to shake off the reputation of a coach who can't win titles.
''It's always disappointing to lose a final, but this team has a future and I am not worried,'' Loew said Saturday.
Germany lost the 2008 European Championship final to Spain, which also beat Germany two years later in the World Cup semifinals.
With the German public expecting nothing less than the title at Euro 2012, Loew's team lost to Italy in the semifinals, with the coach widely blamed for the defeat by picking wrong tactics and wrong players.
Germany breezed through the qualifying for the tournament in Brazil but the only blemish was a spectacular one - allowing Sweden to rally from a four-goal deficit to earn a 4-4 draw in Germany. Critics said Loew had failed to react from the touchline and made no attempt to interrupt the Swedish momentum.
Loew was Jurgen Klinsmann's assistant for two years before taking over after the 2006 World Cup. He was widely credited for being the mastermind behind the tactics of Klinsmann's team.
As head coach, Loew continued to rely on a crop of young players coming out of Germany's youth academies, showing no reluctance to cut veterans he did not trust to do the job any more, including former captain Michael Ballack.
Throughout the years, Loew and his staff kept fine-tuning the style Loew wanted his team to play: a passing game modelled on the Spanish ''tiki-taka,'' fast breaks with a quick transition from defense to attack and creative players who could be deployed in several positions.
Loew raised eyebrows in Germany ahead of this World Cup by picking only one true striker, 36-year-old veteran Miroslav Klose. He then caused some consternation by choosing four central defenders for his back four, with no trained fullbacks in the starting lineup.
Loew showed flexibility that was not always there in the past when he improved Germany's game by dropping the ''false nine'' system, returning captain Philipp Lahm to fullback and inserting Klose into the starting 11.
''For me, he is a fantastic coach,'' Klose said. ''He always has new ideas in training. He's always spoken a lot with the players. He's brought in new tactics.''
Loew said he and his players discuss different ideas but ultimately it's him who makes the decisions and sticks with them. He said he wouldn't change his thinking because of outside suggestions, such as those made by television pundits back home.
''I am following a clear line and I will not adjust it just to please the public opinion,'' Loew said.
The 54-year-old coach has an impressive record. In 111 games in charge, he has 76 wins, 20 draws and 15 losses.
Securing the country's fourth World Cup crown, after an absence of 24 years, would put Loew on a pedestal in Germany.