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Germany vs. Ukraine: On cloud three(erkette)

For Joachim Löw, the hot European Championship phase begins against the Ukraine: His regular team is supposed to get into the game. This raises questions about the right system, the problems in the defence – and the role of Toni Kroos.

Oliver Bierhoff knows how to set themes. It should therefore come as no surprise to him that the German national team has been talking more about clouds than goals for days. A “dark cloud” hangs over the team, which puts pressure on the mood of the players, Bierhoff said at the beginning of the week. Since then, no DFB press conference has gone by without a weather report. One might think that the lights went out at the four-time world champion.

Joachim Löw is trying to direct the view towards EM 2021. “When the game starts against France next year, they can assume that the quota will be right again,” said the national coach when asked about the national team’s poor TV ratings. From a sporting point of view, he wants to stop the experiments immediately, “now it’s all about the break-in”. After the Nations-League match against the Ukraine in the evening (20.45 h live ticker; TV: ZDF), the match against Spain is waiting on Tuesday, followed by three matches in the World Cup qualifiers in March and then the immediate preparations for the European Championship will begin at the end of May. But what will Löw’s regular team look like?

In their analysis of why the national team is so difficult for the public to understand (there it is again, the cloud), SystemfrageBierhoff and the national coach refer to the confounded World Cup 2018. This is much too simple in the overall view. In certain areas, however, the two DFB makers, who are very much convinced of themselves, are not so wrong. Both at the World Cup and in the Nations-League games at the end of 2018, the DFB team revealed blatant defensive weaknesses that gave Löw the idea of moving away from the four-man back line.

The 3-4-1-2 brought more stability, but the system could not prevent the far too high number of goals scored. The defensive work of the whole team is crucial. And in the offensive, this system often lacks a player, even though Löw relies more on switching situations and less on dominance. It is not for nothing that many internationally successful club teams continue to play with a four-man team. At the European Championship, however, the first two opponents will be France and Portugal, and a well-rehearsed 3-4-1-2 could be a success factor, especially against the world champions.

Nevertheless, Löw will continue to accompany the system question. If he wants to play three-man, he needs three central defenders who meet the highest standards. Only Niklas Süle is seeded. Antonio Rüdiger would probably also be seeded, but has not yet received a league assignment at Chelsea FC. Lukas Klostermann, who stands out with his speed, Matthias Ginter and Robin Koch, who has recently been praised by Löw, all have good chances. In a four-man team, Löw would only have to select one more central defender from this quartet. problem zone outer defenceThe situation on the outer tracks is no better. The problem has been known for years and it is unlikely that Löw, as national coach, will benefit from a qualitative leap in this position. The promising debut of Philipp Max against the Czech Republic will not change that. There are reasons why Max was not nominated for years and now plays in the mediocre Eredivisie at PSV Eindhoven. The 27-year-old is too inconsistent and too weak in defensive duels for a top team.

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