Ger­many faces re­al­ity check be­fore ti­tle de­fense

Yuma Sun - - SUN SPORTS -

BER­LIN — De­fend­ing World Cup cham­pion Ger­many coasted through qual­i­fy­ing with a per­fect 10-0 mark and a Euro­pean record 43 goals. Then came a re­al­ity check. Ger­many drew friendlies against Eng­land, France and Spain, and Joachim Loew’s team lost 1-0 to Brazil to end a 22-game un­beaten run, and then came a de­feat to Aus­tria. The Ger­mans didn’t win a game this year un­til last week’s 2-1 vic­tory over Saudi Ara­bia in Lev­erkusen.

Now try­ing to be­come the first time since Brazil in 1962 to de­fend their World Cup ti­tle looks tricky for the Ger­mans.

“We’re not as good as we’re made out to be, or as some think we are,” mid­fielder Toni Kroos said. “There’s huge room for im­prove­ment.” The re­cent slump in friendly matches could snap any com­pla­cency among the Ger­mans go­ing into the World Cup, which needs to top Group F to avoid a likely sec­ond-round clash against Brazil. Here’s a closer look at the Ger­many team:

COACH

Loew, as­sis­tant coach to Juer­gen Klins­mann dur­ing Ger­many’s “sum­mer fairy­tale” host­ing of the 2006 World Cup, was pro­moted to the top job af­ter its third-place fin­ish. He fa­vors a fast-paced possession-based game, press­ing op­po­nents to re­cover the ball and switch­ing quickly from de­fense to

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