Coach Loew in a fix over team composition
Berlin: Per Mertesacker and Thomas Mueller, perhaps, are dead right: The Germans are a tribe of moaners. Ahead of the quarterfinal against France on Friday, both of Germany`s World Cup players and coach Joachim Loew feel like shutting themselves away.
"I don` t want to have to say sorry for having won the World Cup with narrow 1-0 wins," said Mueller after widespread discussions about the team`s performances to date at the World Cup.
Many feel the German game is not spectacular enough and that despite the team having reached the quarterfinals. Loew probably shares his players` sentiments as he is getting advice from all sides.
Putting it bluntly, Loew is under fire as he - and the country - desperately wants to win his and its first major title and he has to provide a convincing strategy as to how he is going to go about it.
Up till now he has focused on getting a result and has duly been coming in for some heavy criticism back home. The big question now is: Will Loew give in and change his tactics as he faces the boot should he fail against France?
For Loew the decision appears to be like the one between the devil and the deep blue sea. He either gives up his doctrine of a solid defence and play a more attacking game or he continues to follows his gut feeling of safety first.
The German starting eleven could be a slightly more risky one with Philipp Lahm at right back, Mats Hummels and Mertesacker at the centre and Jerome Boateng on the left.
Lahm and Boateng would then open up the game down the flanks. Sami Khedira could appear as a defensive No. 6 behind Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger. Andre Schuerrle would be on the left flank, Mesut Oezil on the right and Thomas Mueller as a spearhead in the middle, but no playmaker.
The most risky solution would be the one with Mueller coming in from the right, Oezilas the playmaker at the centre of midfield and Miroslav Klose up front. It would be similar to the line-up Loew employed at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
The more conservative line-up would be to leave things as they are. Captain Lahm would stay in midfield and Boateng (right back), Mertesacker, Hummels and Benedikt Hoewedes (left back) would all continue in defence. Replacing Schweinsteiger, Khedira would start next to Kroos - slightly in front of Lahm. Loew again would do without a play-maker.
Until Euro 2012 and the disastrous defeat in the semifinal against Italy, Loew was known as an avid believer in football as a work of art that expressed passion and desire. After admitting making mistakes in team selection and tactics, he then proceeded to concentrate on getting results.
A solid defence was now more important than football as an artwork. After 18 years without an important title, Loew is driven by the yearning to win a major tournament. After Euro 2012 he received signs from his players that the major problem would stem from a far too risky offensive strategy.
Games against Ghana (2-2) and Algeria (2-1) however showed the weaknesses of Loew`s strategy. With four central defenders at the back, they did little to initiate German attacks. Schweinsteiger, Kroos and Khedira in midfield were also unable to "fast forward" attacks.
Constantly changing positions up front (Goetze/Schuerrle/Podolski - Mueller - Oezil) did, however, ease the speed problem in the German game. Loew, however, pinned his faith in his "special forces" (Klose, Schweinsteiger, Schuerrle, Khedira) when they came off the bench or Lahm when he moved back to his old position in defence in the second half of the match against Algeria. Players like Oezil and Goetze seem to be a different kind of players.
Now head-coach Loew is the man to decide about team selection and tactics, and maybe about his future. Many say that if he fails to bring the World Cup back to Germany, Brazil could be his last tournament as the head coach. Many German moaners would then start calling for a new man in charge.
Despite his officials statements Loew is not satisfied with his team`s performance himself as a German lip-reader discovered. The New-Ulm (Neu-Ulm) based Julia Probst told in her tweet Loew was complaining about his team performance during games against Ghana, the US and Algeria. "Why doesn`t it get any better," he asked. Or he said: "What is going on" and "Well that`s rubbish".
Meanwhile, midfielder Kroos is likely to join Real Madrid for the coming season.
According to Xinhua, Bayern Munich would be happy to do the deal and transfer Kroos to the 2014 Champions League winners.