?Everything must come to an end. But in the cases of Jerome Boateng, Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels, the end came far quicker and far from left-field than they could have imagined. World Cup winning heroes in 2014, dispensed with and thrown aside in 2019.
In effectively ending the international careers of three of his most high-profile superstars, Joachim Low put his own Germany career on the line. In his 23-man squad for this week’s international fixtures, eight of them could still feature for the youth sides, whilst only four have earned 30 caps or more. Perhaps even more significantly, just three remain of the 2014 World Cup dynasty: Manuel Neuer, Matthias Ginter and Toni Kroos.
Following their worst performance at a World Cup in 80 years last summer when they were knocked out at the group stages, Low promised to rejuvenate the side, and embrace a team with more pace, more dynamism and more guile.
He said (as quoted by ?Channel News Asia): “What is important is to have more tempo, more dynamism, more focus up front. I know how to deal with pressure. I can feel what it means in the current position. We have learned from setbacks. We now need to have a completely different attitude from the year 2018.”
A seismic part of that ‘different attitude’ has been the blooding of youngsters, with former ?Arsenal star Serge Gnabry and Bayer Leverkusen’s 19-year-old sensation Kai Havertz the shining lights. At a press conference on Tuesday ahead of the game against Serbia, Low spoke of a glowing optimism of Germany’s international future, but admitted that his new young side would face teething problems along the way.
Germany’s latest senior squad includes:
19 year old:
?? Kai Havertz
22 year olds:
?? Julian Brandt
?? Max Eggestein
?? Thilo Kehrer
?? Lukas Klostermann
23 year olds:
?? Serge Gnabry
?? Leroy Sané
?? Niklas Stark
?? Niklas Süle
?? Jonathan Tah
?? Timo Werner
— Scouted Football (@ScoutedFtbl) 15 March 2019
He revealed: “We are now facing a new time, a new challenge. I have to give the team the feeling that we fully trust them.
“We have to give them the chance to develop, take over more responsibilities and also during a rough patch offer them solutions when they make mistakes so they have the trust to go into the next months.”
Some of those ‘mistakes’ could be seen against Serbia, where in their first game without their famed Bayern trio leading the charge, Germany fell behind to a 12th minute strike from Luka Jovic. They looked nervous defensively, and had it not been for last-ditch tackle from Lukas Klostermann to deny Jovic another, could have been 2-0 down inside the first half.
This Germany team is young, fast and dangerous. Reminds me of their young 2010 squad. Team work and synergy develops and in few years, they’d challenge for trophies. That’s how you build a team! ??#NEDGER
— Series Abí??du?n (@Engr_Series) 24 March 2019
But following the introductions of the mercurial ?Marco Reus and the dynamic Leon Goretzka at the break, German fans bore witness to what could have potentially have been the beginning of this much heralded new era.
?Manchester City’s Leroy Sane was devastating with his speed and movement, Reus became the heartbeat of the side’s attacking play, and Goretzka struck a much-deserved equaliser. If indeed the game against Serbia provided a glimpse of the future, then against the Netherlands on Sunday, Low’s side delivered a more defining statement.
Away in Amsterdam, against an in-form Dutch side, and in the first game of their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, Germany could have been forgiven for a sluggish start and to have been overwhelmed by the confident Oranje. Instead, Sane and ?Gnabry struck inside the opening 45 minutes to give Germany a shock lead, and but for some fine saves from Jasper Cillessen could have been out of sight.
Then, when they were pegged back to 2-2, Nico Schulz stepped up to score a last-minute winner to secure victory and all three points in the Group C clash. But to Low, and to German football on a wider scale, Schulz’s goal had far bigger implications than a measly three points in a relatively straight-forward qualification group.
It avenged their Nations League misery to the Netherlands last November. It gave a shot into the arm of those detractors who feel the side’s youth and inexperience won’t be able to achieve results. And ultimately, and perhaps most importantly, it became a vindication for Low’s expulsion of Muller, Hummels and Boateng.
England’s young guns might be taking the limelight during this international break, but the old rivals are beginning to turn a new leaf themselves. And if you’re a Germany fan, then don’t you just Low it.