A 3-0 dismantling of the Netherlands in Hamburg Tuesday following a run of 10 straight wins in European Championship qualifying won't be enough to earn Germany a seed in the finals next summer.
Those four slots will go to defending European and world champion Spain, co-hosts Poland and Ukraine, and the Dutch, ranked No. 2 in the world and 1-0 losers to Spain in the 2010 World Cup final. So
despite impressive results -- Germany also beat Brazil, 3-2, in a friendly in August -- Coach Joachim Loew is cautious of what may transpire.
“It’s a long half-year away and things can look different then," he said after goals by Miroslav Klose, Thomas Mueller and Mesut Ozil had overpowered the Netherlands. "A lot can change in soccer."
Still, the Germans simply outclassed the Dutch, taking an early 2-0 lead through Klose and Mueller before Ozil added the third goal. “They really had no chance," said Oezil. Loew believes his team has changed in the wake of losses to Spain at the 2008 Euros and last year's World Cup. "We’ve managed to make our game more consistent," he said. "There are fewer shifts in performance than in previous years. And we have more depth in our squad, we have integrated young players into the team and we are able to create more pressure against defensive teams."
As recently as the 2002 World Cup Germany reached the final, in which it lost to Brazil, but little about that team inspired comparisons to great German teams of the past. This team, says Loew, is the best of recent vintage. Klose's goal upped his total to 63, just five shy of Gerd Mueller's all-time German record. “We had strong teams in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s," said Loew, "but this is strongest team of the past decade."