Germany coach Joachim Loew faces tricky year with unfinished team

By Klaus Bergmann, dpa

Germany have only four games from March onwards to prepare for Euro 2020. Coach Joachim Loew would have preferred more time with his players because the team has undergone a major overhaul.

Germany coach Joachim Loew is going through “the worst period” right now because the Bundesliga winter break denies him to continue working with his new-look team.

Loew started a major overhaul after a shocking 2018 World Cup group stage exit as title holders but also knows that he must deliver later this year at Euro 2020.

For that, the 59-year-old would prefer more time to work with his team which he won’t gather again until March, after last playing in November.

“A four-months break is not good for our young team,” Loew said. “The long winter break is a step back. We must make a new start in March. That is of course a little annoying for me.”

Germany play their first match of the year on March 26 against Spain in Madrid, followed by a Nuremberg date with Italy five days later. Afterwards, there will be only two more tune-up games in the final preparation for the June 12-July 12 Euros.

Loew has admitted that “we aren’t favourites this time around,” especially because they have been drawn to play world champions France and title holders Portugal in the group stage.

A third team will join the group after the March play-offs, possibly Iceland, and Germany director Oliver Bierhoff said this is “the most difficult group you can imagine.”

But Bierhoff also said that “you want to march until the end when you play such a tournament,” and German football supremo Fritz Keller hopes that playing all group games at home in Munich will boost the team.

“You can ignite football fever in Germany with such a draw,” Keller said, speaking of matches every football fan wants to see.

Loew must turn a talented but unfinished team into a competitive unit within the week in March and a pre-Euro training camp in Seefeld, Austria before their June 16 tournament opener against France.

“We must make use of the few matches and the short time until the tournament,” midfielder Toni Kroos said.

The 96-times capped Real Madrid man Kroos, 29, and 33-year-old captain and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer of Bayern Munich are the most experienced players from the 25 men Loew has fielded in the six internationals since summer, including five newcomers.

Loew’s team has been hit by injuries, and the coach just hopes for March “that all players are healthy who have the quality to play for Germany at such a Euro event.”

Neuer, Kroos, Jushua Kimmich and fellow-Munich player forward Serge Gnabry are to be key players but Loew’s main hope is that Manchester City winger Leroy Sane and Bayern Munich centre back will recover in time from severe knee injuries which have sidelined them for months.

Loew has compared his team with the class of 2010 with the likes of Neuer, Kroos, Thomas Mueller, Mesut Oezil, Jerome Boateng and Sami Khedira who matured over the years to lift the 2014 World Cup.

“The team we have is highly talented. Players like Gnabry, Kimmich, (Leon) Goretzka and (Timo) Werner have not reached their limit yet. They are still very young,” Loew said.

Four years from now Germany will host Euro 2024, a long-term goal Loew has set for the team.

But whether he himself will still be at the helm remains to be seen. Loew has a contract until the 2022 World Cup in Qatar but also knows that another debacle at Euro 2020 could end his reign which started in 2006 even earlier.

In addition, Loew turns 60 this year and has said hat for him coaching at the age of 70 is “unthinkable.”

But overall, Euro 2020 is the only thing on his mind right now.

“As a coach I follow and think about the development the team takes. I am thinking until the Euros, not beyond,” Loew said.

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