Only last month Germany Under-21 coach Rainer Adrion was comparing his current crop to the 2009 title-winning team. Germany had found qualifying round Group 1 plain sailing before a 4-2 aggregate play-off win against Switzerland booked their place in Israel.
Since then, however, the waters have become a little choppier for this impressive side. Adrion's charges slipped to a 1-0 defeat by Italy – their first loss to the Azzurrini at this level – and at the weekend needed a last-gasp goal to overcome Israel.
"We dominated, but could not assert ourselves decisively," said Adrion after the Israel victory. "Opponents often play us with venom and are full of running, and we have to use aggressive attacks and runs. Today we lacked that in stages of the game. The final memory of this short training week is of course the slender win, but we have a lot of room for improvement."
Those sentiments were echoed by the players, and none more so than captain Lewis Holtby, who urged his team not to rest on their laurels ahead of the tournament in Israel. "We didn't play the football that we are capable of. We made a lot of mistakes in a game we should have dominated," said Holtby. "Our quality and the way we play football must improve. We have a lot to learn and we still have to prepare for the EURO."
As for the comparisons with Germany's 2009 vintage? Midfielder Tolgay Arslan believes he and his team-mates must first put in the hard work on the pitch. "I think that the team should first focus on achieving success and then the players will emerge from that," said Arslan. "In 2009, the team had an amazing tournament. Many players from that team have gone a long way – and rightfully so. This team can have similar success."
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