'Never change a winning team' is what they say. Yet Joachim Löw stated quite clearly yesterday that he does not abide by this old football adage, adding: "Sometimes I like surprises."
Löw surprised many by including Mats Hummels and Mario Gomez in the starting XI for Germany's opening victory against Portugal and this latest comment leaves plenty of room for speculation ahead of the clash with the Netherlands in Kharkiv tomorrow.
To share my thoughts, I have to elaborate a bit. Much has been made of Germany's transformation from a counterattacking side to a more possession-orientated one. While it was certainly one of the most important things for Germany in 2010 to make the transition quickly from defence to attack, I am sure Löw would have liked to have more of the ball in the semi-final against Spain – his team just weren't there yet.
Spain still set the standard and many have argued that Germany are on their way to playing like Spain. I disagree. After the first round of UEFA EURO 2012 games, no team currently comes close to the insane tiki-taka-ing of the world and European champions, who passed the ball 733 times in their 1-1 draw with Italy. Germany's 463 passes were a decent average, with the Dutch (517) and the French (654) coming even closer.
Trying to copy Spain would mean being a second-best version of the original. Germany should strive to find a unique style playing to their own strengths. One of their greatest attributes is probably the depth of their attacking options. Against a physical Portugal, Löw went for a cautious approach and was rewarded with a win. And let's not forget that among the pre-tournament favourites his side were alone in winning their opener; Spain, the Netherlands and dark horses France all fell short.
It may be that playing Lukas Podolski and Thomas Müller is the wrong approach against teams sitting deep like Portugal, and other opponents could now employ that same cautious tactic. This would call for the introduction of more creative players like Mario Götze or Marco Reus on the wings, even though the Dutch game should be more open with lots of space to play 2010-style counterattacks.
In summary, my guess is that against the Netherlands Löw could keep the same lineup, while against Denmark Reus and/or Götze, may come in.
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