EVIAN • Joachim Low spent the first week of Euro 2016 as a figure of fun.
During Germany's opening game, against Ukraine, he had been caught in a couple of unguarded moments, with the media conducting impromptu investigations into matters of his personal hygiene.
The videos went viral; the jokes did the rounds; a whole continent snickered.
There was something faintly absurd about watching Low having to apologise for what the BBC, euphemistically, referred to as his "trouser antics".
To recap: Low is 56. He has now been in charge of Germany, Europe's historical football superpower, for a decade. In that time, he has coached them in five leading tournaments.
His record, thanks to a penalty shoot-out victory over Italy in Bordeaux last Saturday, reads: three semi-finals (2010, 2012, 2016), one European Championship final (2008) and one World Cup (2014).
It is already unparalleled, and may yet be burnished still.
IN GOOD HANDS
He also has a success story to show for his time with us and that brings with it calmness. We are well taken care of with Low.
THOMAS MULLER, Germany forward, on head coach Joachim Low.
He would be forgiven for feeling he has done enough not to be reduced to a punchline about it being best to avoid post-match handshakes.
The great managers of the modern era tend to demand attention.
Some, such as Pep Guardiola, do so by presenting themselves as the standard-bearers of a philosophy. Others, such as Jose Mourinho, take a more belligerent, provocative route.
Jurgen Klopp is such a bundle of energy that all eyes can only be on him; Antonio Conte, unseated now as Italy coach, has a similar air.
Low is the polar opposite. It is so easy to forget his remarkable record that Toni Kroos, the midfielder who thrives under his guidance, was asked earlier in this tournament to assess whether he was a good coach.
The German player looked completely nonplussed. "Of course he is a great coach," Kroos said. "He is the coach of the world champions, so he must be good."
And yet not everybody sees it that way. Low is sometimes referred to, in Germany, as a "gardener", someone who has been presented with a pristine lawn and simply has to maintain it.
Anyone, the inference goes, could manage this generation of players, this side presented ready-made for use by Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.
But it is no lowly feat to at least have taken Germany to the semi-finals of every tournament they have played in since he took over after the 2006 World Cup.
Sunday could well see him hold both the Euro and World titles, achieved only by another German, the late Helmut Schoen - who won the 1972 Euros before clinching the 1974 World Cup with what was then West Germany.
Low's record stands at 136 matches with 90 wins and 22 defeats, slightly better than Schoen's 87 wins and 21 losses from 139 matches.
Some may argue that Spain's Vicente del Bosque has a better record in an even shorter time, having won Euro 2008 and 2012 and the 2010 World Cup.
But Spain went out of the 2014 World Cup in the group stage, while also limping out of Euro 2016 in the round of 16.
No other coach has shown this kind of consistency and, even if Low's Germany fail to move past hosts France today, his track record remains sparkling.
"He is very confident," said Germany forward Thomas Muller.
"He knows how well the team work in training and that creates trust."
Muller is one of the many players Low has called up through the years, and was a newcomer in his 2010 World Cup team - the youngest Germany team in 76 years at the time - who crushed Argentina and England en route to the semi-finals.
He said: "He has been here 12 years (including as assistant coach from 2004-06). He also has a success story to show for his time with us and that brings with it calmness.
"We are well taken care of with Low."
THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS