DORTMUND, July 5: Juergen Klinsmann picked Germany up off the floor after a humiliating European Championship in 2004 and took a band of young misfits and weather-beaten old pros to the brink of a World Cup final.
If he could not quite take them that extra step, instead seeing his team beaten 2-0 in extra-time by Italy in the semi-finals, the 41-year-old former striker could still take immense pride in an achievement few thought was possible.
In his usual modest way, Klinsmann shrugged off the compliments that came his way at the end of the semi-final, which was settled by last-gasp goals from Fabio Grosso and Alessandro Del Piero, and focused the praise on his players.
''The most important thing is to recognise that this team gave a remarkable performance in this campaign,'' Klinsmann said at a news conference after the game.
''They played positive, attacking football throughout and showed they could keep up with the best in the world.'' Klinsmann raised eyebrows when he took over in August 2004 and soon brought in a number of youngsters who were virtually unknown in Germany, including England-based players like Thomas Hitzlsperger and Robert Huth.
He continued to promote youngsters to the team and must have glowed with pride to see 22-year-olds Philipp Lahm and David Odonkor plus Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski and Bastian Schweinsteiger, all just 21, play with such great promise.
Few of them have done anything like as well for their clubs as they have for their country, and many are not even first team regulars.
Klinsmann also coaxed exceptional performances out of older players like Bernd Schneider, Torsten Frings and Jens Lehmann.
All the time, he insisted that focusing on direct, aggressive football was the way forward and saw his team clinch impressive World Cup results.
A 4-2 win over Costa Rica was followed by a 1-0 victory against Poland, a 3-0 success versus Ecuador and a 2-0 win over Sweden that clinched a place in the quarter-finals.
Germany were more cautious against Argentina and held to a 1-1 draw over 120 minutes before winning on penalties.
Klinsmann's team came close to repeating the trick against Italy only for those two late goals to break the hearts of the German fans in a capacity crowd in Dortmund and millions more watching on TV and in public viewing areas across the country.
All will wish the coach to stay on in the post but for Klinsmann it is too early to discuss the future.
''Let's talk about the team and not my own role,'' he said.
''At this World Cup we've seen players with enormous potential.
That gives us reason for optimism and confidence.
''The progress has to go on and it will go on. We shouldn't be afraid of the future.''