University boffins steer German tactics

File - Germany's coach Joachim Loew (L) and assistant coach Hansi Flick sing their national anthem before their 2014 World Cup round of 16 game against Algeria at the Beira Rio stadium in Porto Alegre June 30, 2014. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

SANTO ANDRE, Brazil: That no European team has won any of the previous six World Cups in Latin America is not a daunting prospect for Germany as they head into Tuesday’s World Cup semifinal against hosts Brazil, according to assistant coach Hansi Flick.

Three-time World Cup winners Germany are confident that two years of meticulous university research combined with their own scouting and preparations for the conditions will give them an edge against five-time winners Brazil on their home turf.

“We’re very, very well-prepared and we’re looking forward to playing Brazil,” Flick told reporters when asked about how Germany planned to end the dominance of Latin American teams when playing in their own region.

“We’ve been working on this project for the last two years and our entire system has been built up for that.”

Germany are undefeated in Brazil but haven’t yet had to face a Latin American team.

Major European rivals such as Spain, Italy and England have already been beaten or knocked out by South American teams.

Flick said to get ready for South American teams Germany have benefited from a giant database put together by a team of about 50 students at Cologne’s sport university over the last two years.

That information, combined with scouting reports, has been used for detailed analyses of Brazil and their players.

“The sports students in Cologne have been studying in great detail our opponent and put every play they’ve run, every newspaper article on them, and everything about them out there under the microscope and made all that data available to us,” Flick said at Germany’s base camp on the Atlantic coast in Northeastern Brazil.

“We’ve got this enormous database to draw upon and, together with our scouts, we’re able to take a close look at our opponent and make our plans for the match. It’s a project we’ve been working on intensively for the last two years. We’ve been able to cull some very high-quality information from all the data from the students. It’s very much helped us prepare.”

Germany have been turning to the student researchers at the Deutsche Sporthochschule Koeln more and more over the past decade. Former Germany coach Juergen Klinsmann first began tapping the data accumulated by the students, most of whom are football enthusiasts and thrilled to be working on a project that could possibly help, even in a small way, to win the World Cup.

While the students are sworn to secrecy about their intelligence gathering, Juergen Buschmann, the professor who headed the project, has been quoted in German newspapers as saying that the students use an eclectic variety of sources to chronicle such details as how players react in pressure situations, what their preferred routes are, how they react when fouled, what gets under their skin and how they sprint.

He said the one trend that he was at liberty to reveal was that top teams change their tactics frequently, but provided no further details – not surprising, but tantalizing nevertheless.

The intelligence has come into special focus for the World Cup in Brazil in part because Germany has never won here on the continent, with their three World Cup titles won in Switzerland (1954), West Germany (1974) and Italy (1990).

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 08, 2014, on page 14.




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