Where now for beaten Germany after Euro 2016 exit?

Marseille (AFP) – World champions Germany fly home from Euro 2016 on Friday for a post-mortem into what went wrong after they lost 2-0 to hosts France in the semi-finals.

Antoine Griezmann’s double strike in Marseille sealed victory for the hosts and sent them to Sunday’s final against Portugal.

“France has earned the right to be in the final and I think that the French will win against Portugal,” said Germany coach Joachim Loew.

“I think France are good, but we were better” he added, despite the scoreline.

“France totally deserved to win,” ex-captain Michael Ballack told German daily Bild.

Lothar Matthaeus, Germany’s most-capped player, was critical of Loew for having again changed his system, saying “it creates uncertainty”.

Germany reverted to their standard 4-2-3-1 formation against France, having played a back three against Italy in the quarter-finals.

After the European Championship finals, Loew celebrates a decade in charge and under his stewardship they have reached at least the semi-finals of the past six major tournaments.

The 56-year-old has a German FA (DFB) contract until the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia.

His bosses want to extend his deal but Loew has left things open and said he will consider his future in the light of their Euro 2016 performance.

– Loew’s future –

“I’ll speak to the players and coaching staff when we look at the tournament,” said Loew.

“There will be a relatively short analysis of the tournament, as I didn’t see that we made many mistakes.”

But Die Mannschaft know they wasted their chances to beat the hosts.

Germany were punished for some sloppy first-half finishing and failed to convert any of their 18 shots on goal, despite 68 percent possession.

“We played our best game at these European Championships, as weird as that sounds when you’ve lost 2-0,” admitted midfielder Toni Kroos.

“I can’t blame the team for anything and we went behind after a stupid incident.”

The “stupid incident” was Nicola Rizzoli’s controversial penalty decision just before the half-time break.

The eagle-eyed referee spotted a handball by Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger from a corner, pointed to the penalty spot and changed the course of the game.

The French could scarcely believe their luck.

Griezmann calmly slotted home the spot kick, then added a second after the break to put the result beyond doubt.

“The penalty was of course a shock and I had to calm the players down in the dressing room,” admitted Loew.

“Then it was hard for us, as they countered very well. We were brave and overall our team did well.”

– Composure –

But Loew knows the world champions lost their heads when the penalty was awarded against them and never fully regained their composure.

Discipline was a factor in Marseille as Liverpool’s Emre Can, in for injured Sami Khedira, picked up a needless yellow for bringing down Griezmann, then argued with Rizzoli.

Mesut Ozil was booked for kicking the ball away in disgust after the penalty decision, while Thomas Mueller had to restrain some team-mates furious with the decision.

Ballack’s pre-tournament comment that Germany lack strong leadership may well return to trouble Loew.

Handball penalties were the thorn in Germany’s side in the knock-out stages.

Jerome Boateng conceded one in Bordeaux which took their quarter-final against Italy to penalties. Then Schweinsteiger was caught out when defending a corner against France.

Loew will point to injuries and Mats Hummels’ suspension as the main reasons they lost to France.

But with Mario Gomez injured, neither Mario Goetze nor Mueller, who has now gone 11 straight games without scoring at Euro finals, hit the net in France.

On a positive note, after two years of experimenting, Loew finally seems to have found his ideal back four with Joshua Kimmich and Jonas Hector having nailed down the wing-back berths.

And in Kroos and Ozil, Germany are never short of creative playmakers who find holes in the opponents’ defence.

But two years after Miroslav Klose retired, Germany still do not have a settled striker, a problem Loew must solve.

Germany’s next match is a friendly against Finland in Moechengladbach on August 31, to warm-up for their first World Cup qualifier against Norway in Oslo on September 4.

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