Neil Humphreys: Why Germany coach Loew is a grumpy genius
Never happy, German coach's desire to evolve makes him a great
The Germans are not a particularly happy bunch. They prepare for a couple of friendlies like condemned prisoners awaiting execution.
National coach Joachim Loew looks haunted, a dark-eyed spectre in matching black jumper.
He has the air of a coach always searching for something more, something unattainable, as if winning on a regular basis is not enough.
It's ingrained in the psyche, that endless self-analysis and criticism.
The Germans are at their imperious best when they're bleating and Loew has been whining all week.
Ahead of the friendly against Spain on Saturday morning (Singapore time), Loew has lamented his country's supposed decline.
He believes the Bundesliga's pressure game is easy on the eye, but hard on the artist.
With less time on the ball, technicians are struggling to hone their skills, which is damaging the national game.
Honestly, who talks like this?
In Germany, just about everybody, including team manager Oliver Bierhoff.
He's not happy either. He rarely is. He's calling for another revolution, one to rival the grassroots overhaul that turned Germany from Euro 2000 chumps to world champs in 14 years.
Bierhoff fears for the kids.
Until the last World Cup, every age-group side had six or seven rising talents. Now, he believes that figure has dropped to two or three.
In any other football nation, that's a figure to be proud of. In Germany, it's a potential source of shame.
Bierhoff demands action. He wants the German association's new academy in Frankfurt open by 2021. He wants the national game to rise once more.
Germany, lest it be forgotten, are the reigning world champions.
But they're already looking past Russia. Other nations intent on catching Germany at this World Cup are perhaps working on the assumption that Loew's men are standing still.
But the coach's underlying genius lies not in his grandiose public statements (Jose Mourinho) or even in a particular brand of football, whether it's stylish and inspiring (Pep Guardiola) or stale and effective (Portugal's Fernando Santos).
If Guardiola had Johan Cruyff as a mentor, then Loew had Charles Darwin. His success lies in a quiet, but ruthless obsession with evolution.
It's the survival of those in form. Just ask Mario Goetze.
Four years ago, he was the poster boy of Germany's revolution. His volleyed finish in the 2014 World Cup final encapsulated Teutonic efficiency; cool, precise and seemingly effortless.
Goetze was going to be Germany's Lionel Messi until his form got messy after suffering from a metabolic disorder. Loew dropped him.
That's the German way.
If dropping an out-of-form superstar seems obvious, consider the past attempts to shoe-horn a hapless Wayne Rooney into the England line-up, despite being past his prime.
In Italy and Holland, the same conversations were had concerning ageing greats who had pushed creaking bodies one qualifying campaign too far. Pride came before the World Cup fall.
Loew has no interest in personal pride, only collective performance.
Of the 26 players selected for the friendlies against Spain and Brazil, only eight were part of the World Cup-winning squad.
More interestingly, 17 were involved in the youthful squad that prevailed in last year's Confederations Cup.
At the time, most were considered halfway between a B and a C side, a number of nascent stars savouring the spotlight before the headline acts returned.
The Confederations Cup was lifted without Neuer, Hummels, Boateng, Hoewedes, Guendogan, Weigl, Sane, Mueller, Reus, Oezil, Goetze, Gomez, Schuerrle, Khedira and Kroos, box-office talents of such magnitude that first names aren't required.
But Loew could hardly care less about the branded goods in his dressing room. He's interested in silverware, not shirt sales. Perform today or be gone tomorrow.
It's Die Mannschaft Darwinism, a competitive and transparent philosophy that explains both Goetze's omission and Mario Gomez's inclusion.
He might be 32 and the quintessential journeyman, but the Stuttgart striker has knocked in six goals in 10 appearances, which makes him the Bundesliga's top German striker in 2018.
Loew doesn't pander to populism or indulge in self-aggrandising sound-bites that'll enhance his persona.
He's not the Special One or the Chosen One, but the Grumpy One, a product of a football culture that refuses to stagnate.
Germany's struggle for success never ends. The fear of failure hangs over every tournament.
Loew is worried. Bierhoff is worried. Much of German football is perpetually worried, which works best for the wonderfully self-critical nation.
Die Mannschaft only worry when they're winning.