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Löw looks to challenge ahead

Joachim Löw was already looking to the future after his Germany side became the first to qualify for UEFA EURO 2008™ by drawing in Dublin at the weekend.

Germany coach Joachim Löw was already looking to the future after his side became the first to qualify for UEFA EURO 2008™ following their goalless draw in the Republic of Ireland on Saturday.

Drama avoided
A point was all Germany needed to advance from Group D and Löw's understrength lineup duly delivered with a battling display in Dublin. "Now we can start making plans," said Löw, whose team reached their objective with a national-record 237 days to spare. "It is good to have avoided any drama. It can be stressful if you have to wait to the end to qualify."

Low key
The achievement was greeted by Löw more as a matter of convenience than a reason to celebrate. There was no champagne in the dressing room, rather a resolve to continue Germany's unbeaten run in qualifying – beginning against the Czech Republic in Munich on Wednesday. "Maybe we'll have a glass of wine in the hotel," Löw said. "But we mustn't overdo it, as we have to do well on Wednesday. A match against the Czechs is always exciting."

'Fighting spirit'
Löw could draw strength from the fact his side performed so well despite missing Michael Ballack, Philipp Lahm, Miroslav Klose and Bernd Schneider through injury. "We may have lacked a bit of substance but our fighting spirit was good," Löw said. For centre-back Christoph Metzelder, Germany showed a new maturity by making light of the loss of such experienced players. "We couldn't compensate for the number of absentees simply by changing our tactics," he said. "But once you're intelligent enough as a team to realise this, you just play in a way to get the result you need."

Beckenbauer praise
Löw had replaced Jürgen Klinsmann in the hot seat after the 2006 FIFA World Cup and has consolidated his predecessor's success according to former Germany captain and coach Franz Beckenbauer. "Germany are the best, most consistent team in Europe right now," Beckenbauer said. "They've kept a high level since the World Cup and have even improved. Other top sides like Italy, France and England have let up and are having problems even qualifying."

Big step forward
Germany have won 12 of 15 matches under Löw with two draws and one defeat, impressing Beckenbauer who had not been slow to voice criticism of the national side in the past. "The team have taken a big step forward and they're ready to win the [UEFA] European Championship," Beckenbauer said. "It would be good if he stayed longer. At the moment there isn't anyone better than him with his system and his assistants."

Competition
Qualification may be certain, but skipper Torsten Frings and company cannot switch off. "We have built too good a reputation by the way we play for that to happen," he said. Germany have three qualifiers remaining, starting with the big test against the second-placed Czechs. German Football Association president Theo Zwanziger has been keen to extend Löw's contract, but for the moment three points in Munich are Löw's sole focus. "First we have the Czechs on the agenda," he said. "There is competition for every place in the team. This gives us an advantage because it means no one can sit back and take it easy."