Loew: full steam ahead for Germany to end WC triple-header

By Klaus Bergmann and Arne Richter, dpa

Coach Joachim Loew wants to continue a successful start to his long farewell to the Germany job but the problem of scoring goals remains.

Even before departing Bucharest with three points from Sunday’s 1-0 win over Romania, Germany coach Joachim Loew was looking ahead to Wednesday’s match with North Macedonia to complete the opening triple-header in World Cup qualifying.

“We have to again win the game with full steam ahead,” Loew said. “Then we have definitely made a solid start to the year – and started World Cup qualifying in the right direction with nine points.”

Germany followed an opening 3-0 win over Iceland with a 1-0 triumph over Romania, who are likely their strongest challengers for the one automatic qualifying spot to the Qatar 2022 finals.

But relief at the strong start, a far cry from the struggles of 2020 which culminated in a 6-0 Nations League debacle in Spain in November, is mixed with concern over the lack of a killer touch in front of goal.

“The attacking gap has been there a while,” the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily wrote, and it was “again seen that a classic ‘nine’ is missing.”

Winger Serge Gnabry netted a remarkable 15th goal in 19 Germany games but he and his team-mates spurned a bucket of other chances to make the game safe.

“Bundesliga great Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich/Poland) would have definitely scored three goals in such a game,” said the Bild paper.

Building for the future though is no longer Loew’s concern after he announced his departure following Euro 2020 delayed to this summer. But chances must be taken in a tough group start against World Cup winners France and title-holders Portugal, even if Hungary pose less of a threat on paper.

“We should have killed the game off earlier and then we wouldn’t have been in danger at the end,” said captain Manuel Neuer, who acknowledged “my goalkeeping counterpart did really well though.

“We need to score the second and third goals to be able to relax more. We were lacking that coolness and cleverness in front of goal.”

Kicker magazine said a “little luck” was needed at the end, as Romania wasted a couple of rare chances of their own, to ensure Germany received the reward for their work.

Loew insists the first two games have offered something to build on and promised not to completely change his side for the match with North Macedonia in Duisburg. “But it could be that one or other fresh players come in,” he said.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen could replace Neuer in goal, Timo Werner could boost the attack and Borussia Moenchengladbach’s Florian Neuhaus may join the midfield.

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