Joachim Loew will look to add the European crown in France to Germany’s 2014 World Cup triumph, but the head coach of ‘die Mannschaft’ has worries surrounding his team.
With the clock ticking down to Germany’s first Group C game against Ukraine in Lille on June 12, Loew is waiting on captain Bastian Schweinsteiger, defenders Jerome Boateng, Emre Can and Benedikt Hoewedes.
Attacking midfielder Julian Draxler, meanwhile, is expected to play his first game this Saturday since tearing his thigh last month.
“That’s five players capable of playing an important role that are injured. I admit a certain concern,” Loew said recently.
“You always get such problems ahead of every tournament. In 2014, Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger were injured but we managed it. But of course now I hope they’ll all stay fit and their injuries won’t return.”
Manchester United’s Schweinsteiger is the biggest concern having injured knee ligaments before the March friendlies against England and Italy, but the 31-year-old is expected to start running within the next 10 days.
“We’re in regular contact about how his progress is coming along and I’m hopeful,” said Loew.
To add to his worries, Loew’s team is suffering from erratic form.
They backed up a 3-2 defeat to England, having thrown away a 2-0 lead in Berlin, with a 4-1 thumping of Italy in Munich in March.
With Mats Hummels as his only World Cup-winner in the back four, Germany’s defence crumbled against England when the Borussia Dortmund captain went off and Loew’s side found themselves out-muscled and out-thought in midfield.
Things improved against Italy, but Loew will expect his team to improve their finishing and urgency in their final friendlies against Slovakia and Hungary before their departure for their Euro base in Evian, near France’s border with Switzerland.
The Germans finished top of their Euro 2016 qualifying group, but their defensive frailties were exposed by defeats away to both Poland, who they will again meet in Group C, and the Republic of Ireland.
– 10th anniversary –
“There are a few areas which are important and we have to improve on, such as our behaviour in defence, our build-up play and our patterns of running,” said Loew, who will celebrate 10 years as Germany’s head coach after Euro 2016.
Under his stewardship, Germany have cemented their reputation as a tournament team — capable of raising their performances for the big occasions.
He stepped up from his role as assistant to replace Jurgen Klinsmann as head coach in 2006 and Germany went on to finish as runners-up at Euro 2008, then third at the 2010 World Cup.
They reached the last four of Euro 2012, beaten 2-1 by Italy in Warsaw, before qualifying unbeaten for the 2014 World Cup finals.
Loew’s crowning glory came in Brazil where they beat the hosts 7-1 in one of the most incredible World Cup games ever before lifting the trophy for the fourth time. His contract will take him through to the 2018 World Cup.
His record of 86 wins in 129 matches, with 22 draws and 21 defeats, gives him a win ratio of 66 percent.
Ever the innovator, he added Munich-based yoga instructor Patrick Broome to his backroom staff for Brazil 2014, to encourage players to stretch and lessen the risk of injury.
If yoga kept Ryan Giggs playing past his 40th birthday, it can work for the Germans.
Loew can still rely on the core of his World Cup-winning squad.
Manuel Neuer is a shoe-in at goalkeeper, as are centre-backs Boateng — who is back in training at Bayern Munich after a groin injury — and Mats Hummels behind midfielders Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira.
Thomas Mueller, Mesut Ozil and Toni Kroos can be confident of their places, but both full-back roles are up for grabs while Mario Goetze and Mario Gomez are vying for the striker’s berth.
Loew will demand high standards at a pre-Euro camp in Switzerland and he is not one to pull his punches, especially with fringe players.
Wolfsburg striker Max Kruse was kicked out of the squad in March for minor indiscretions, including arguing with a reporter in a nightclub and leaving 75,000 euros ($85,306) in cash in a Berlin taxi.