Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel TIME 100
Carsten Koall—Getty Images

The transformer of Germany

For me, nothing epitomizes Angela Merkel’s leadership more than her role in the 2006 World Cup. As hosts, we Germans were concerned about how we would be perceived — the dark shadow of history still loomed. We had assembled a young, hungry, decidedly “un-German” team. A team that historically was disciplined, organized and physical — which perfectly fit the image of our culture — became one that was free-flowing, creative and energetic. There were growing pains, and the criticism was harsh. She remained supportive, and Germans ultimately embraced the new approach. We as a nation were comfortable showing a pride not seen or felt in generations. Merkel had presided over a transformational moment. After the triumph of 2006 came 2007 and a financial crisis; once again she had to convince skeptical Germans that change was needed — to rescue Europe’s economy. The quality of her leadership — firm, measured and agreeable — helped return Germany to a place of respect on the football pitch and in the global arena.

Klinsmann, coach of the U.S. men’s soccer team, played for Germany and coached its 2006 team

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