Germany gets just what the doctor ordered

By Mike Woitalla

If you had asked German fans or journalists yesterday whether they thought their world championship team could win this summer's European Championship, you'd have been unlikely to get a "Ja!"

It’s not just that Germany squandered a two-goal lead against England on Friday and lost, 3-2, in the friendly in Berlin. It’s how Joachim Loew’s team has been performing over since it lifted the World Cup in Rio and the form dip of many of its top players.

Going into Tuesday’s friendly against Italy in Munich, Germany had won just eight of its 16 games since the World Cup, and four of those victories came against Gibraltar and Georgia in its soft Euro 2016 qualifying group.

Unflattering results included a 2-2 tie with Australia and a 2-1 loss to the USA in home friendlies. Ireland tied and beat Germany in Euro qualifying.

On the personnel front, from the team that beat Argentina, 1-0, in the World Cup final and routed host Brazil, 7-1, in the semifinals, it starts with the retirement of captain Philipp Lahm.

Then there’s the poor form of injury-plagued Bastian Schweinsteiger, the motor of the team in Brazil. Mario Goetze, who scored the World Cup final gamewinner, has languished on the bench of Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich.

Andre Schuerrle, who set up Goetze’s goal, struggled at Chelsea and has failed to shine at Wolfsburg. Mesut Ozil continues to get criticized for his inconsistency while some worry Toni Kroos’ unhappiness at Real Madrid could spill over into his national team performance.

Central defender Jerome Boateng has been sidelined with a groin injury since January and his comeback date is unknown. Boateng’s central defense partner Mats Hummels has had an average season with Dortmund in 2015-16. Another defender, Benedikt Howedes, is also injured.

Miroslov Klose, who set the all-time World Cup scoring record in Brazil, is 37 and retired from the national team.

Striker Thomas Mueller has been red hot for Bayern Munich and the national team. But so desperate to find him an attacking partner was Loew that called back 30-year-old Mario Gomez, who hasn’t played a competitive game for Germany since the 2012 Euros.

Generally speaking, though, Germans tend to be confident about their team’s prospects regardless of the negatives because Die Mannschaft is known for excelling in tournament play.

That confidence, however, took a blow when the Euro 2016 draw came out. Group C opponents aren’t daunting -- Northern Ireland, Poland, Ukraine. But a look ahead out how the knockout stage is likely to unfold would have Germany facing in the quarterfinal its most dreaded rival -- Italy.

Germany has never beaten Italy at a World Cup or a Euro. The Italians knocked host Germany out of the 2006 World Cup in the semifinals and in the semis of the 2012 Euros that the Germans entered as favorites. The last time Germany beat Italy in a friendly came in 1995.

But on Tuesday in Munich, the Germans dominated the Italians, who scored on a deflected shot with seven minutes left after the going down 4-0.

Kroos opened the scoring, assisted by Mueller, with a pinpoint low, long-distance shot. Goetze had perhaps his best game since the World Cup, scoring on a header from Mueller cross and helping set up a goal by outside back Jonas Hector, who may have convinced those wondering whether he was ready for the big stage. Ozil buried a penalty kick.

The 4-1 victory marked Germany’s biggest win over Italy since 1939. It may have just been a friendly -- or as the Germans call it, ein Testspiel -- but the performance proved the world champion isn’t in as much of a crisis as reports after Friday’s loss to England would have had you believe.

2 comments about "Germany gets just what the doctor ordered".
  1. ROBERT BOND, March 30, 2016 at 9:14 a.m.

    got Can off the back-Gomez not an answer up front-but jurgie will tweak in these meaningless games.......DFB only 1/3 vs US recently-but that was in the WC........

  2. ROBERT BOND, March 31, 2016 at 9:50 a.m.

    Loew, that is...........too many guys to keep happy..Boateng supposed to be back in April.....

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