Berlin (AFP) – Joachim Loew will look to add the European Championship crown in France to Germany’s 2014 World Cup triumph, even if his team have again endured a far from perfect build-up to the finals.
“You always get such problems ahead of every tournament. In 2014, Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger were injured but we managed it,” said Loew recently.
The coach saw Germany lose 3-1 at home to Slovakia in their first warm-up friendly ahead of the finals and injury has deprived him of the services of Borussia Dortmund winger Marco Reus.
Captain Schweinsteiger of Manchester United, who tore knee ligaments in March, was included in the squad though.
Germany face Ukraine in Lille in their opening game on Sunday when they will hope to shake off the cobwebs after some erratic recent form.
In March, they backed up a 3-2 defeat to England, having thrown away a 2-0 lead in Berlin, with a 4-1 thumping of Italy in Munich.
With Mats Hummels as his only World Cup-winner in the back four, Germany’s defence crumbled against England when the Dortmund captain went off and Loew’s side found themselves out-muscled and out-thought in midfield.
Things improved against Italy, but the Slovakia loss was a minor shock to the system and they completed their build-up to the finals with a less than convincing win against Hungary last weekend.
The Germans, who will be based in Evian, near France’s border with Switzerland, finished top of their Euro 2016 qualifying group, but their defensive frailties were exposed by defeats away to both Poland, who they will again meet in Group C, and the Republic of Ireland.
– 10th anniversary –
“There are a few areas which are important and we have to improve on, such as our behaviour in defence, our build-up play and our patterns of running,” said Loew, who will celebrate 10 years as Germany’s head coach after Euro 2016.
Under his stewardship, Germany have cemented their reputation as a tournament team — capable of raising their performances for the big occasions.
He stepped up from his role as assistant to replace Jurgen Klinsmann as head coach in 2006 and Germany went on to finish as runners-up at Euro 2008, then third at the 2010 World Cup.
They reached the last four of Euro 2012, losing 2-1 to Italy in Warsaw, before qualifying unbeaten for the 2014 World Cup finals.
Loew’s crowning glory came in Brazil where they beat the hosts 7-1 in the semi-finals in one of the most incredible World Cup games ever before beating Argentina in the final.
His contract will take him through to the 2018 World Cup.
His record of 87 wins in 131 matches, with 22 draws and 22 defeats, gives him a win ratio of 66 percent.
Ever the innovator, he added Munich-based yoga instructor Patrick Broome to his backroom staff for Brazil 2014, to encourage players to stretch and lessen the risk of injury.
If yoga kept Ryan Giggs playing past his 40th birthday, it can work for the Germans.
Loew can still rely on the core of his World Cup-winning squad.
Manuel Neuer is a shoe-in at goalkeeper, as are centre-backs Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels behind midfielders Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira.
Thomas Mueller, Mesut Ozil and Toni Kroos can be confident of their places, but both full-back roles are up for grabs while Mario Goetze and Mario Gomez are vying for the striker’s berth.
Loew demands high standards and is not one to pull his punches, especially with fringe players.
Wolfsburg striker Max Kruse was kicked out of the squad in March for minor indiscretions, including arguing with a reporter in a nightclub and leaving 75,000 euros ($85,306) in cash in a Berlin taxi.
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