Time running out for Germany to find winning formula ahead of Euro 2012

The DFB team may have earned a two-goal victory, but their attack was rusty while their rearguard went untested and Bastian Schweinsteiger's absence is of particular concern
By Clark Whitney | Germany Expert

A glance at the final score would suggest Germany had an easy game against Israel; a 2-0 win is one that is never in danger at the final whistle and implies a certain dominance from the victors. And to be fair, die Mannschaft absolutely controlled the run of play in Thursday's friendly triumph in Leipzig. But while the result was an important reaction to their 5-3 loss to Switzerland last weekend, Germany still have some serious concerns ahead of Euro 2012.

Joachim Low has always emphasised the importance of quickness in passing: ideally upon receipt, a player should either move the ball along with his first touch or do so within a second. In the first half especially, there was no urgency - the German team often looked mechanical and slow, failing to replicate the type of sequences that made them the world's most scintillating international team in 2011.

Shots on goal
Passes completed
In and around the box, Mario Gomez was rarely on the same page with the three attacking midfielders, and his first touch was often far too heavy. He got his goal, one that was scored with an admittedly brilliant finish, but his overall quality of play left plenty to be desired. Substitute Miroslav Klose was only marginally better in possession; he still is not firing on all cylinders after returning from injury.

Overall, the attack just was not as sharp as it has been in the past. Gomez's touch let him down, Thomas Muller and Lukas Podolski could not finish, and in several instances, Toni Kroos misplaced rather simple passes. In many relatively successful attacking sequences, the Germans rode their luck as the Israeli defenders conceded possession with either a deflection or an errant pass. Despite the rain in Leipzig, a Mannschaft side at their best would have won by 4-0 or more.

Perhaps most troubling from a German perspective was the absence of Bastian Schweinsteiger. The vice-captain has had a nightmare since the Champions League final, suffering from a calf injury that has limited his training and kept him out of both of Germany's pre-Euro friendlies. Now his readiness for next week's opener against Portugal is in question.

In previous tournaments, Germany have had one or two more manageable games in the group stage before graduating to tougher opponents. But at Euro 2012, there will be no trial period, no room for error. Germany's first two matches will be against Portugal and Netherlands, both quality teams. And if Low's side are to progress, they will have to win at least one of the first two fixtures.

Only in those two matches will it be revealed exactly how competent Germany are in defence. While it is true that Israel rarely ever had a sniff at goal, that was to be expected, as the opposition were nowhere near top class, so Per Mertesacker, Jerome Boateng & Co. could not be properly measured. The back four made no mistakes of note, but the question still remains as to whether they can match up against Europe's elite strikers.

We have to be better with our chances; in the big games, that can be very important.

- Joachim Low

In fairness, the match was not all negative for Low's men. In scoring, Gomez gathered a healthy dose of the momentum he thrives upon. But the man who really stole the show was substitute Andre Schurrle, who fired in a stunning strike from outside the area. The Leverkusen man was excellent as a replacement for Podolski, adding more of a direct threat on goal than his predecessor as he cut in from the wing onto his favoured right foot. With seven goals in his first 14 international appearances, the 21-year-old has all the ability to be a perfect impact substitute, or maybe even more.

Still, there remain many areas in which Germany are unsettled. Schweinsteiger is irreplaceable in big games, and must not only be fit but in form if the Mannschaft are to win the tournament. The attack is struggling to find the quickness and sharpness it has had in the past. And as for the defence, a clean sheet is welcome but no great accomplishment against Israel.

After the dismal loss to Switzerland, Germany's result in Leipzig was critical. But now with the ship steadied, Low faces tempestuous waters ahead. There are still plenty of problems and unknowns to address, and only a week left to get things right. The clock is ticking.

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