The opening match of the 2018 World Cup qualification was successful for the German team with a 3-0 win over Norway in Oslo. Prior to the 2018 tournament in Russia, where the title achieved in Brazil will be defended, national coach Joachim Loew is planning to make changes.
It can usually prove dull for a player when starting again after a major tournament, similar to the first day at work after the holidays for an employee. Anticipation for the next highlight is yet out of range, while thoughts linger about the event just experienced. So the German national team encountered certain problems when trying to get back on track after the glorious World Cup triumph in Rio de Janeiro two years ago.Though Joachim Loew did not criticise his team, he desperately wanted to avoid a repetition during the post- European Championship time.
And once again his team responded. In their first matches after the tournament in France the European Championship semi-finalists performed convincingly with a 2-0 win over Finland, then the World Cup qualification opener when Norway were defeated 3-0. Both matches were the start of a long journey towards the successful defence of the World Cup title. Though it’s still two years until the 2018 tournament in Russia, the dress rehearsal Confederations Cup will take place next year, offering at least a chance for participation by numerous young, promising players. Particularly as Bastian Schweinsteiger, 32, and Lukas Podolski, 31, heroes of the previous generation, have vacated their places in the DFB squad by retiring.
Loew welcomed the retirements, knowing there are sufficient highly talented players who are pushing for recognition in the German squad. Loew recently publicly praised his potential stars and made it clear that he thinks them capable of playing key roles – such as Joshua Kimmich, 21, of FC Bayern Munich, already does in the national team. It is the expressed aim of the national coach to “advance further young players with perspective”.
Besides the record-transfer of Leroy Sané (20, Manchester City) and the well-known Bundesliga players who have already earned caps in the A team, such as Leverkusen‘s Julian Brandt, 20, and Jonathan Tah, 20, as well as Dortmund’s jewel Julian Weigl, 21, the members of the German Olympic team in particular took the opportunity to attract attention on the big stage during the summer break. Serge Gnabry, 21, who moved from Arsenal FC to Werder Bremen after the Olympics, was the top scorer at the tournament with six goals and has also scored for Bremen in the Bundesliga. Loew confirmed having discussions on several occasions about the winger.
The two Hoffenheim Olympic silver medallists, NiklasSuele, 21, and Jeremy Toljan, 22, are considered future pillars of the DFB team. After the Games Suele earned his first cap against Finland and received praise from all quarters; while his club team-mate Toljan was given special mention by Joachim Loew at a press conference. The national coach called the “two outside defenders” future candidates for promotion – and thus triggered great hopes for a quick debut also for Leipzig’s Lukas Klostermann, 20. Both are extremely fast so fit the national coach’s philosophy like a glove. The outside defending positions have always been problematic for Loew during the past few years. However, Klostermann unfortunately has suffered a ruptured crucial ligament and may not play again until 2017.
The two 21-year-old Schalke players Max Meyer, who has already earned his first cap, and Leon Goretzka, who was injured during the Olympics in Brazil, will be future national team regulars. Goretzka in particular is very popular with Loew: “I am a big fan of him. He has great potential.”
Some of the up-and-coming players consistently strong in the Bundesliga will get opportunities to promote themselves at international level. The national team, led by new captain Manuel Neuer, will encounter in October their toughest rivals for direct qualification to the World Cup in Group C. The World Cup champions will receive neighbours Czech Republic in Hamburg on October 8. Three days later European Championship participants Northern Ireland will travel to Hanover for the third qualifying round. The qualifiers against San Marino (November 11) and a friendly against Italy in Milan on November 15 will conclude the year.
The national coach made it clear that by setting the agenda for the upcoming months he does not aim to invite the young talents just to try them out, but considers them capable of great and particularly quick progress: “This time I don’t want to experience such a mixed qualification. We want to improve some things decisively“.