Loew spoilt for choices

  • As rookie German team clinch first ever World Cup warm-up tournament with a 1-0 win over Copa America champions Chile in the final
- Reuters, ST PETERSBURG

Jul 4, 2017-

After Germany’s success at the Confederations Cup and Under-21 European Championship over the last few days, coach Joachim Loew must feel like a kid in a candy store as he maps out his plans for next year’s World Cup title defence in Russia.

Despite resting more than half a dozen key players this summer, Germany won the Confederations Cup for the first time on Sunday by beating South American champions Chile 1-0. Two days earlier, the country’s Under-21 team secured the European title, shocking favourites Spain by the same score and confirming the country’s stellar work at youth level.

The 57-year-old Loew, now in his 11th year in charge, has a pool of more than 40 players to monitor as the clock ticks down to next year’s World Cup finals. All of them battle-tested and with tournament experience. “Joachim Loew now has the big chance, with a mix of experience and dynamism, to put together a strong squad (for next year),” said German Football Association (DFB) President Reinhard Grindel. “We have a big pool to chose from.”

The biggest problem for Loew is likely to be who to leave out. Players like Confederations Cup top scorers Timo Werner, Lars Stindl and Leon Goretzka, who all netted three times at the tournament, have every right to believe their fine performances in Russia will be a stepping stone to the 2018 World Cup squad. Antonio Ruediger, Sebastian Rudy and Mathias Ginter also rose to the occasion while Julian Draxler, who captained the team in the absence of Manuel Neuer, was voted player of the tournament.

“We certainly have a lot of players who in those two tournaments have filled up on confidence,” Loew said. “But for those players the work is just starting, the big tournaments are still to come. To get to world class level is an even bigger challenge.” Loew has long preached the importance of having two players for every position to be successful at international level. Judging by performances over the last few days, it appears he may have at least three.

At the top of the pile are Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Toni Kroos, Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil, Thomas Mueller and Marco Reus, who all sat out the tournament to be fit and fresh for the coming year. Injury kept several other first team players from the Confederations Cup, such as Leroy Sane, Ilkay Guendogan, Julian Weigl and Jonathan Tah. 

But no one can afford to feel their position is secure with the likes of Under-21 players Jeremy Toljan, Niklas Stark, Maximilian Arnold, Max Meyer, Serge Gnabry and Davie Selke pushing for a place in the full squad. While Loew was delighted to win both tournaments, he said the World Cup would be an entirely different proposition. “Germany will always be one of the favourites, no matter what tournament,” Loew said. “Winning the Confederations Cup and the Under-21 Euro win are no guarantees. At a World Cup there are five, six teams you battle against and everyone must almost be superhuman to succeed.”

Chile to maintain adventurous style

South American champions Chile have promised to stay faithful to their adventurous approach which often threatens to blow their opponents away but also leaves their own defence dangerously exposed.

“Our gameplan is always to have the initiative, to take the leading role, have control and create openings,” coach Juan Antonio Pizzi said after his side’s defeat in Confederations Cup final. “Our commitment in the future is to continue doing the same.”

Chile were once renowned as relative lightweights in South America but in the last few years have become one of the continent’s most inventive and versatile sides. They invariably press high and try to win possession deep in the opposition’s half and, when they have the ball, throw players forward in numbers in a manner which former Spain coach Vicente del Bosque once said was like “facing 11 kamikazes.”

Marcelo Bielsa, the Argentine coach who took them to the 2010 World Cup, began the transformation which was continued by Jorge Sampaoli who led them to their first major title, the Copa America in 2015, and by Pizzi. Under Pizzi they also won last year’s Copa Centenario.

Despite their two titles, Chile often threaten to blow themselves out and recent results have been inconsistent. They still have a fight to qualify for next year’s World Cup, currently lying fourth in the 10-team South American group where only the top four qualify directly. 

Published: 04-07-2017 09:31

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