Germany begin their 2013 UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifying campaign against Cyprus on Tuesday eager to right the wrongs of their failure to qualify for Denmark 2011.
Winners in 2009, their defence ended meekly after they finished behind the Czech Republic and Iceland in their group, and coach Rainer Adrion is keen to give a new generation the chance to prove their worth. They will hope to hit the ground running when they kick off their Group I campaign in Karlsruhe against a Cyprus side that already have a 6-0 victory over San Marino under their belts.
The loss of Ilkay Gündogan, Toni Kroos, André Schürrle and Mario Götze, all called up for the senior side's friendly with Brazil on Wednesday, complicates matters, but Adrion is confident. "We used the end of the last season to build a new team," he said. "We've recorded four victories, three draws and one defeat, but have managed to create a good new squad. We were able to test a variety of things and are now ready to start with three points."
Not that the 57-year-old is taking anything for granted. "Our qualification group is certainly open," he said, "but we shouldn't believe that any of our opponents will make it easy for us, so staying alert will be very important." The lessons of the last campaign have not been forgotten. With Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece and a Belarus team that finished third this summer completing the section, and only the group winners guaranteed a play-off place, caution is wise.
Sebastian Rudy says the spirit in the camp is high, though. "We're a real team now," said the TSG 1899 Hoffenheim midfielder. "Over the past few matches we've shown that we can create chances and be compact in defence at the same time. Right now we're laying the foundations to beat the big teams."
Two years ago Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Sami Khedira, Dennis Aogo and Mesut Özil all played a pivotal role in Germany's success at the U21 championship in Sweden before stepping up for the senior squad for their 2010 FIFA World Cup campaign. What hope have the class of 2013 to emulate that? Tuesday may provide a clue.
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