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Joachim Loew still waiting for 1st title

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FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Joachim Loew has the best record of all Germany coaches, yet his team has not won a title in the eight years he has been in charge.

Germany's habit of stumbling at the last or next-to-last step under Loew's guidance has raised questions whether he has what it takes to lead Germany at the World Cup and perhaps win the title.

The German football federation thinks so — it has extended his contract through the 2016 European Championship. The early extension has removed a potential distraction before and during the tournament in Brazil, but it won't be worth the paper it's written on if Loew's team fails to live up to expectations at the World Cup.

"A dynamic, attacking and thrilling style of play is a hallmark of the national team. All this is thanks to Joachim Loew," DFB President Wolfgang Niersbach said.

While the football-crazy nation always expects Germany to come home as champion, more sober voices say Germany will have a hard time winning the title against such teams as Brazil and Argentina.

Loew's record of 70 wins in 102 Germany matches — a 68 percent winning percentage — along with 15 defeats, masks the fact that he's had a rather undistinguished record at club level, both as coach and player.

But since he took over from his friend Juergen Klinsmann after the 2006 World Cup, Loew has fashioned Germany into one of the most exciting teams in the world.

The only thing missing are the titles — Germany's last came at the 1996 European Championship.

The 54-year-old Loew has transformed Germany by relying on young players who have gone through the country's youth academies. Germany started playing with flair rarely associated with the previous teams, whose trademark was discipline, hard work and physical strength. He prefers to play with one striker, but has also used "false nines."

Germany lost to Spain in the Euro 2008 final and again in the semifinals of the 2010 World Cup. As the nation expected Germany to finally beat Spain at Euro 2012, Loew's team was stunned by old nemesis Italy in the semifinals.

Loew took a lot of heat after that loss, and he took a long time to acknowledge that he had used the wrong tactics and wrong players.

He also watched helplessly from the touchline as Germany squandered a 4-0 lead against Sweden in a qualifier to settle for a 4-4 draw. Loew apparently had no reply for his team unravelling on the field.

In March, Germany was booed by its own fans after a lackluster 1-0 win over Chile while Loew fumed on the bench.

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