Ger­many ripe for the pluck­ing

NETHER­LANDS, FRANCE AWAIT LOEW’S MEN Bay­ern Mu­nich’s woes are trans­lat­ing to the na­tional team.

The Citizen (KZN) - - SPORT - Ber­lin

Joachim Loew faces the tough­est tests of his 12year ten­ure as Ger­many head coach in the forth­com­ing Na­tions League matches away to the Nether­lands and world cham­pi­ons France.

Af­ter earn­ing him­self some breath­ing space fol­low­ing a 0-0 draw with Di­dier Deschamps’ France in Mu­nich last month, Loew must take points from the Dutch to­day in Am­s­ter­dam, and France in Paris next Tues­day, to re­store his tar­nished rep­u­ta­tion.

His former cap­tain Michael Bal­lack turned on him this week, claim­ing he was “sur­prised” Loew kept his job in the wake of Ger­many’s World Cup de­ba­cle when they crashed out af­ter the group stage.

Jur­gen Klins­mann, Ger­many’s head coach with Loew as his as­sis­tant at the 2006 World Cup, also ramped up the pres­sure by say­ing a semi­fi­nal berth at the 2020 Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship is now a “min­i­mum re­quire­ment”.

“It’s ex­pected ‘Jogi’ will re­deem him­self with vic­to­ries and by reach­ing the semi­fi­nals of the next Euro,” Klins­mann told mag­a­zine Sport Bild.

The former striker, 54, says his post-World Cup con­ver­sa­tions with Loew con­vince him that the 58-year-old still has the nec­es­sary “hunger” to suc­ceed.

Un­usu­ally, Loew, who steered Ger­many to the 2014 World Cup ti­tle, has yet to face the press this week.

De­spite sign­ing a con­tract ex­ten­sion with the Ger­man FA in May un­til the 2022 World Cup, de­feats against the Nether­lands and France would leave Loew fac­ing grow­ing calls to re­sign.

The draw with France and a 2-1 friendly win over Peru last month, in the first matches since a dis­as­trous World Cup, were viewed as no more than suf­fi­cient by the Ger­man pub­lic.

Like­wise, the per­for­mances of RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner will be heav­ily scru­ti­nised, hav­ing failed to hit the net in his last five in­ter­na­tional ap­pear­ances.

If Werner again mis­fires against the Dutch, Schalke’s Mark Uth is set to make his de­but.

There are con­cerns in the Ger­man me­dia that the dip in form of Bay­ern Mu­nich, who are win­less in their last four games, is bad news for Loew.

Goal­keeper Manuel Neuer, plus cen­tre­backs Mats Hum­mels and Jerome Boateng have pro­duced be­low-par per­for­mances for Bay­ern in re­cent weeks.

Bay­ern for­ward Thomas Mueller, who strug­gled at the World Cup, has also been out of form.

Loew’s chief play­maker Marco Reus is side­lined by a knee in­jury, which gives a chance to Manch­ester City’s Leroy Sane.

The 22-year-old winger was a sur­prise omis­sion from the World Cup squad and wants to show Loew why he was voted the Premier League’s best young player last sea­son.

In­juries else­where forced Loew into fur­ther changes af­ter goal­keeper Kevin Trapp, de­fender An­to­nio Ruedi­ger, mid­fielder Leon Goret­zka, winger Kai Havertz and Reus dropped out of the orig­i­nal 23-man squad.

They have been re­placed by Ju­ven­tus mid­fielder Emre Can, Bay­ern winger Serge Gnabry and Arse­nal goal­keeper Bernd Leno.

Af­ter re­peated crit­i­cism for too of­ten turn­ing to his trusted core of se­nior play­ers re­gard­less of form, Loew must be bold in his se­lec­tion - or risk more dam­ag­ing de­feats. - AFP

Pic­ture: Getty Im­ages

HEAV­ILY SCRU­TI­NISED. Ger­man coach Joachim Loew is in for a tough few days as his team will lock horns with the Nether­lands and France in the Uefa Na­tions League.

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