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Germany’s shining midfield leaves Loew with selection problem

Berlin (AFP) – Germany head coach Joachim Loew appears to have a luxury problem to solve before this summer’s Euro 2020 finals in deciding which midfield stars to leave out.

Germany’s midfield axis of Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka, Ilkay Gundogan and Kai Havertz shone in Thursday’s 3-0 win over Iceland in a World Cup qualifier behind in Duisburg.

The midfield quartet was at the heart of an impressive display against Iceland as Germany redeemed themselves for last November’s humiliating 6-0 drubbing by Spain. 

But Loew has plenty of other choices in the middle.

Regular starter Toni Kroos was absent with a groin injury.

Jonas Hofmann was in the squad but is now in quarantine after his positive Covid-19 test almost derailed the game.

And, for his Germany farewell at the Euros, Loew could even recall Bayern Munich veteran Thomas Mueller. 

Loew has targeted three straight wins from their opening qualifiers with an away match against Romania on Sunday and North Macedonia in Duisburg on Wednesday still to come. 

Germany started rapidly against Iceland.

“We had hoped that the shackles would be off,” Kimmich said .

“We didn’t set off any fireworks, but we could have done with a display like that.”

Goretzka scored with just two minutes gone and Chelsea star Havertz, playing as a deep-lying forward, also hit the net as Germany raced into a 2-0 lead after seven minutes.

Gundogan, who has scored 16 goals in 34 games for Manchester City this season, capped a fine display by hitting the net again in the second half.

Kimmich was arguably the man of the match, providing a string of defence-splitting passes and winning plenty of possession.

The 26-year-old helped create both of the opening goals and by halftime, Kimmich had made more passes (91) than the entire Iceland team (90). 

“That was outstanding,” said former Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness as a pundit for broadcaster RTL.

Loew is also already grooming Germany’s future midfield stars. 

The 18-year-old Jamal Musiala of Bayern Munich came on late in Duisburg for his debut. Leverkusen’s Florian Wirtz, 17, stayed on the bench but could also make his debut in Bucharest on Sunday.

– Luxury problem –

When Real Madrid star Kroos returns, Loew will face questions about who to leave out at the Euro finals.

“Why should Toni Kroos have to fear for his place? That’s a world-class player,” Loew replied perplexed when asked if Kroos should be concerned. 

The 61-year-old Loew, who will step down after 15 years in charge in July, is desperate to end on the high of winning the Euro 2020 title.

Germany have drawn world champions France, holders Portugal and Hungary in their group. 

Beating Iceland was a relief to the German FA, especially after Hofmann tested positive for Covid-19, prompting “hectic” scenes, according to Loew, before the local health authority allowed the match to go ahead. 

Having demanded a “rigorous and merciless” display, Loew heaped praise on his midfield for helping deliver the morale-boosting win.

“They moved well and all of them were very secure on the ball, that was a plus for us and had a positive effect on our game,” Loew added.

However, with Loew also mulling the recall of Bayern Munich’s Mueller, the head coach needs to create space in midfield.

One option is to move Kimmich to right back. 

“We’ll have to think about that again in May,” said Loew of his squad selection for the European Championship from June 11-July 11.

By then, “‘Jogi’ (Loew) will be spoilt for choice when everyone is healthy again,” added Hoeness who urged Loew to recall Mueller for the Euros.

“Then we’ll (Germany) at least have something in this part of the team that the other (teams) in Europe don’t have.”

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