Sport Soccer

Monday 19 March 2018

German public fear Low's stylish side lack winning mentality


Irish supporters might have watched Borussia Dortmund's scintillating display at the City of Manchester stadium last week with some anxiety. As they watched Marco Reus and Mario Götze run at City's bewildered defenders, they might have imagined Stephen Ward in identical situations.

Ireland fans watching Bayern Munich the night before might have been more optimistic as they lost surprisingly to BATE.

Bayern went into that game without Bastian Schweinsteiger but he was named in Joachim Löw's squad on Friday. Schweinsteiger missed Germany's first two qualifiers and he is central to the debate surrounding German football as they prepare for the trip to Dublin.

"In some areas we are spoilt for choice," says Jorg Jacob of Kicker magazine. "We have a midfield full of technical players but there are problems. There are problems of mentality."

This problem, as Germans see them, revealed themselves on two important occasions: when Germany lost to Italy in the European Championship semi-final and also in Bayern's Champions League final calamity against Chelsea.

"There is no Oliver Kahn or player of that type who knows how to win, maybe above all else. Instead we have players who know how to play."

If Germany possess some of the world's most exciting midfielders, Jacob says their problems are in defence. Philipp Lahm will be suspended for Friday's game and there is no sense of authority from the German defenders.

Manuel Neuer will be in goal but there are questions about the selection of Ron-Robert Zieler and Marc-Andre ter Stegen as back-up when Rene Adler of Hamburg was considered the form 'keeper. Löw says he is planning for 2014.

The German coach has been under pressure following unconvincing victories against Austria and the Faroes. Some have gone as far as calling for Jurgen Klopp, Dortmund's coach, to take over. With games against Ireland and Sweden over the next 10 days, Germany will be expected to demonstrate an ability to summon the old values alongside the new.

There is only so much to be taken about a national side from the performance of club sides, even those, like Dortmund and Bayern, who provide so many players for a national side. Twelve of the match-day squad against Austria play for those clubs. Then there is Mesut Özil, who could torment Ireland. Götze came on from the bench in Vienna and his club form might suggest he has earned a start.

This is a German team that defies convention by being a side that neutrals love. Löw knows that the German sides were traditionally less concerned with popularity and always happy, such as during their first World Cup triumph in 1954 when they beat Hungary, to upset the neutrals' favourite.

They have still never lost an away qualifier in the World Cup and Ireland might not be expected to threaten that record.

Yet the Germans know what to expect from Giovanni Trapattoni. "We know him for two things," Jacob says, "his tactics and his outbursts."

Trapattoni's tactics have always been more predictable than his outbursts. Löw listed the traditional Irish virtues on Friday but in Germany they also feel that Ireland have a squad that might be vulnerable. Germany, too, might have unexpected weaknesses.

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