Everything is clear in the mind of Germany’s head coach Joachim Loew: If his team are to win the 2018 World Cup in Russia, their attacking game needs to speed up.
“We can only move forward if we manage to introduce greater speed into our game. It’s the only way to improve and modernize our game,” said the 57-year old 2014 World Cup-winning coach.
In advance of the national team’s first game of the year against England in Dortmund Wednesday evening, Loew has started his team’s 15-month preparations in the lead-up to the next World Cup. Loew insists on using the words “pure world class” when talking about the quality of players required to solve Germany’s main deficit up front.
For the time being, 21-year old Timo Werner (who plays for Rasenballsport Leipzig) is one candidate. If he makes his debut against the 1966 World Cup winners, he will be the 87th new player in Loew’s era.
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Loew is hoping to find someone to provide the same kind of pace that super stars Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) and Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona) give their teams. Loew is aware that Werner is still light years away from becoming a new Ronaldo or Messi, but at the same time he seems to be the only one with the pace necessary to bolster the German attack.
Next to Werner, who has already scored 14 league goals this season, only Borussia Dortmund striker Marco Reus fulfills Loew’s demands, but his injury record is reason enough to cause concern. Other German attackers like Mario Gomez (VfL Wolfsburg), Mario Goetze and Andre Schuerrle (both Borussia Dortmund) and Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich) all lack speed, dribbling qualities and real world-class tactics.
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Manchester City’s Leroy Sane could be an additional option. But the 21-year old lacks experience, much like Werner. For Loew it is clear the German team needs experience and speed. “Looking at players that perform well in the Bundesliga or any other league, we must be aware that a good season in the national league is not insurance to provide world-class performances in a long and hard tournament,” Loew says.
Attacking midfielder Julian Draxler (of Paris St. Germain) is returning to form but is still a long way from producing consistent top-class performances for his club. He is making progress, and has scored several goals for the French side, but the 23-year old still has a long way to go.
2017 will be used by the German coach as an experimental year, in which he has two tournaments to try out new options. Loew and his coaching staff, like U-21 coach Stefan Kuntz, will have to select two competitive teams to play the 2017 Confed-Cup in Russia from June 17 – July 2 and the U-21 European Championship in Poland from June 16 until June 30.
While the German midfield is a crowded hot spot with players like Toni Kroos (Real Madrid), Mesut Oezil (Arsenal), Sami Khedira (Juventus Turin) and Julian Weigl (Borussia Dortmund), Loew says he wants to use the pre-World Cup year to “guide younger players up to the top level.”
For the England match, it means Loew will choose a line-up with several younger players such as Niklas Suele (21/TSG Hoffenheim), Antonio Ruediger (24/AS Rome), Weigl (21/Dortmund), Sane (21/ManCity), Draxler (23/Paris) and Werner (21/Leipzig).
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31-year old Lukas Podolski (Galatasaray Istanbul) will appear for his farewell game with the German national team in his 130th match. Kevin Trapp (Paris St. Germain) has been called up as a late replacement for Bayern Munich keeper Manuel Neuer who has a calf injury. Marc Andre ter Stegen (FC Barcelona) is most likely to be the first-choice goalkeeper in the England game. Bayern defender Jerome Boateng is getting a break after a shoulder operation.
Loew has made no secret about his plans to “win the World Cup in 2018” and added that “we are hungry again.” The German coach says he wants full concentration from his side for the upcoming month.
Statistics indicate a tough friendly for Germany against their old rivals as they have only been able to win 12 of the past 34 games. England have won 16 times – including the 3-2 victory the last time when the two teams met in Berlin in March 2016.
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While Loew is about to test some promising youngsters, German team manager Oliver Bierhoff called the England friendly “more important” than the upcoming World Cup qualifier against Azerbaijan this coming Sunday. Germany leads their qualification group by five points (ahead of Norway and Azerbaijan). “We’re on a good path and need to stay tuned as we want to clinch our place as soon as possible,” Loew said.
(With Inputs From Xinhua)