Friendly against the Netherlands is a chance for Joachim Löw to restore faith
It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Joachim Löw is currently enduring his most difficult period of his six years as coach of the German national team. Even in the hardest of times, such as the controversial and messy parting of the ways between Löw and Michael Ballack, the well dressed Swabian has always maintained the calmest and most considered of exteriors.
Now though, the mask is looking ever more slippery. The disappointing tournament exit in the summer and the distinctly average run of results since have taken their toll on the Germany manager. At best, he has looked a little more uncomfortable than usual – at worst he has been forced to apologise for uncharacteristically woeful PR errors such as the fierce, public criticism of Marcel Schmelzer.
One accusation it is impossible to level at the current Bundestrainer, though, is that of arrogance. And tomorrow night’s friendly against the Netherlands provides him with a perfect opportunity to restore some of that previously untouchable serenity, against a managerial counterpart whose brash self promotion plays right into every stereotype the Germans have of their Dutch neighbours.
When asked this week for his thoughts on Löw, Louis van Gaal’s reply was dismissive: “He hasn’t won much yet, has he?“ Even more provocative was his assertion that the style of football that Löw promotes was “the same as how Bayern played under my leadership“.
To the Bayern fans who nearly watched their side lose out on Champions League football to Hannover in Van Gaal’s turbulent second season, such thinly veiled self-worship may seem, understandably, a little out of place.
They will not aggravate Löw, however, who has his own problems to address. After Germany’s dispiriting capitulation in Berlin against Sweden last month, the need for a victory against the Netherlands is greater than ever. On the surface, it may be merely a friendly, but, as Rafael van der Vaart said this week, such games do not exist between these two great footballing rivals. Even in an era far removed from that of Frank Rijkaard, Rudi Völler and globules of well aimed saliva.
A win is imperative for Löw if he wants to achieve some breathing space after the Sweden catastrophe. A convincing win, such as the 3-0 home destruction of the Dutch this time last year, would be even better. There is, however, one hiccup. Germany are without eight players who would normally be in and around the starting eleven. The absence of the likes of Schweinsteiger, Kroos, Khedira and Özil will leave the midfield looking severely weakened, while with both Miroslav Klose and Mario Gómez unavailable, Loew’s side travel to Amsterdam without an out and out centre forward.
Thus will the Löw philosophy be put to one of its most significant tests outside of a major tournament to date. As Ballack found out to his chagrin, Loew sees very few senior players as indispensable, and the seemingly incessant conveyor belt of youth talent in the Bundesliga now has the chance to prove its true worth. The likes of Lewis Holtby, Julian Draxler and Roman Neustädter will make up the numbers in an increasingly Schalke derivative midfield, while the much debated role of “Führungsspieler“ (or on field leader) will be taken over by the likes of the 23 year olds Mats Hummels and Marco Reus.
There is little that the Germans love more than to beat the Dutch. And to do so on foreign soil, with what is already being labelled as a B-Team, would be particularly sweet. Indeed, it may even be enough to dispel the demons of Berlin and Warsaw, and reinstate some of that calm, regal superiority which Löw so desperately needs back.
Picture:Getty ImagesTagged in: Bundesliga, football, germany, Joachim Löw, Julian Draxler, Lewis Holtby, Marcel Schmelzer, marco reus, Mats Hummels, Michael Ballack, The Netherlands
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