As Group D leaders Poland visit Germany on Friday, Philip Röber looks at the issues surrounding Joachim Löw's world champions and their strained qualifying effort to date.
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They may be on track to qualify for UEFA EURO 2016, just a point off the top of Group D, but it is difficult to shake the feeling that all is not quite right with Germany.
It could be down to the country's remarkably high standards that they are being judged harshly, yet the world champions are nevertheless being viewed as underachieving in this campagin with section leaders Poland – who earned the first-ever win against the Germans last October – next up. Here's what Joachim Löw will look to improve, not just in Frankfurt on Friday but also ahead of next summer's finals.
As the footballing and tactical landscape continues its constant evolution, Germany felt that relying on the mechanisms that helped them to glory in Brazil would be a recipe for failure. Having contingency plans for various opponents is Löw's preferred way of working and rehearsing these takes time. The steps in development can only be small during the domestic season, however, because the squad can only gather for short periods around the international window.
But when they meet for their training camp next summer – presumably ahead of UEFA EURO 2016 – Löw will know which aspects still need to be aligned and which he is happy with. Players are also burdened with the responsibility for creativity and inspiration and they famously came up with a number of set pieces in the build-up to the FIFA World Cup. With more time to train together before the tournament, things should once again see an improvement.
The holes left by the loss of Philipp Lahm, Miroslav Klose and Per Mertesacker have been discussed at length and the Mannschaft will no longer accept or use these as an excuse for shortcomings. However, injury problems and fitness issues in all departments have forced Löw to improvise with, rather than stabilise, his team at various stages of this qualifying bid. The replacements who have come into the squad, and the team, are all quality players yet they have not clicked fully into place. The sophisticated system they are entering needs time and practice to function to its total capacity.
Motivation and pressure
Time is not a luxury Löw has right now. A defeat against leaders Poland would seriously endanger German aims of winning the group, while Scotland – Germany's hosts on 7 September – and the Republic of Ireland are just two and four points behind. In the aftermath of the World Cup, the coach conceded there could be a drop in concentration, but from now on he will not tolerate anyone resting on their laurels. "We are under pressure after a year which has not been worthy of a world champion. We are fully aware that the next two matches have to be won," the Germany coach said.