Berlin (AFP) – Germany has secured qualification for Euro 2020, but coach Joachim Loew is running out of time to mould his fledgling team into title contenders before next June’s finals.
Despite dominating possession in Moenchengladbach on Saturday, Loew’s young team struggled against minnows Belarus before two Toni Kroos goals sealed a 4-0 win which confirmed their Euro 2020 qualification.
As magazine Kicker pointed out, the victory highlighted the “many obvious sites” under reconstruction.
By Loew’s pre-match admission, “many players still need a few more years to develop”, yet the Euro finals start in seven months.
The Germans and Dutch have now qualified from Group C but Tuesday’s final game against Northern Ireland in Frankfurt is far from meaningless for Loew.
A victory will put Germany, who won the last of their three European titles in 1996, in the pot of eight group winners when the draw for the finals is made in Bucharest on 30 November.
“Now we have a chance to win this group, it’s our goal to win on Tuesday and end up top,” said Loew.
“I think I’ll make one or two changes, one or two players who didn’t play (against Belarus) will get a chance.”
– Work to be done –
A deft back-heeled flick into the Belarus net by centre-back Matthias Ginter, a Leon Goretzka strike into the bottom corner and two goals by Toni Kroos sealed Saturday’s win.
However, captain and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer twice came to the rescue, parrying a Igor Stasevich shot, then producing a fine save to deny the Belarus striker’s late penalty attempt.
“That was one of four games until the squad for the European Championships is announced, so it was important that we showed the character that we need, and want to see, at next year’s tournament,” was Loew’s verdict.
Loew knows there’s still a lot to work to be done if Germany is to challenge for the European title at the finals from June 12 to July 12.
“In some phases we allowed one or two chances too many,” he admitted.
After one of his best displays for Germany, Kroos echoed Loew’s comments that “at the moment I don’t include us among the favourites for the European title”.
The Germans’ finishing often let them down at Borussia Park.
Top teams, such as Belgium, world champions France, England, Spain or the Netherlands, all currently ranked above them, would have not allowed Germany 31 shots on goal.