FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -Germany's coach has hit back at criticism of his players in the wake of the country's disappointing European Championship in Poland and Ukraine.
"I found some of the criticism to be without purpose and tiresome," Joachim Loew said Monday at his first public appearance since Germany's 2-1 semifinal defeat to Italy.
"Before this game against Italy we had won 15 competitive games in a row. That was a world record," he said.
The 52-year-old coach accepted responsibility for tactical mistakes leading to his side's Euro 2012 exit, but angrily rounded on suggestions leaders in the squad lacked authority, players were spoiled, or that not singing the national anthem had an effect on performances on the pitch.
"The allegation against players with immigrant backgrounds is fatal. It implies that they're not good Germans. It's nice to sing the anthem, but it's far from being proof of having the qualities or desire to play for Germany," Loew said.
"We're all proud - all of us - that this team is doing a huge amount for integration in Germany ... Even if the players don't sing the anthem, they prepare themselves differently and identify themselves with our shirt, with the national team and with Germany. Players like (Mesut) Oezil, (Sami) Khedira and so on have shown that often enough."
Loew denied suggestions the players were spoiled, saying they were expected to deliver "top performances to win every game" and that was why he and the support staff were concerned with providing a strong team setup.
"The Spanish also have a cook and don't cook for themselves, and don't only travel by bus - other countries too. Our players appreciate that, and I think they have given everything to be successful."
Loew highlighted the increased number of chances his players created at Euro 2012, an improved defensive performance and more possession, compared to the World Cup in 2010.
"You can ask if we've become more dominant or if opponents are allowing us more space. It's probably a case of both," Loew said.
However, Germany's lack of precision up front - one goal for every five chances in South Africa, compared to one for every nine chances in Poland and Ukraine - was "bad," he said.
He also blamed a lack of preparation time for the semifinal defeat to Italy. Bayern Munich's participation in the Champions League final meant Loew only had a complete squad to work with two weeks before the tournament began.
"We couldn't do some things we planned on doing because we didn't have the time," he said.
The Germany coach said his side has to aspire to play more like European champion Spain "who are excellent with the ball and even more active when they don't have it."
After Wednesday's friendly match with Argentina, Germany will focus on securing qualification for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
"We've set high expectations with our playing style. It's still a small step from being world class, as we are now, to world's best. We've taken many big steps forward. Now they'll be smaller," Loew said.
"We set the objectives ourselves. Expectations are huge and it's normally so in Germany. It hasn't yet worked out with a title win, but we'll keep going for it."