Germany still caught in those post-Euro blues
The feel-good factor has faded for Germany and even a win in Dublin won’t restore it, writes RAPHAEL HONIGSTEIN
GERMANY LAST dropped points in a tournament qualifier over three years ago (1-1 v Finland, October 2009). They’re ranked second in the world behind Spain, have enough depth in the squad to compensate for a wave of injuries and welcome back key midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich), who’ll wear the armband for the suspended Philipp Lahm at the Aviva Stadium.
However, Schweinsteiger’s optimistic “sense of anticipation” before the trip to Dublin isn’t shared by many. The immediate past, the Euro 2012 semi-final defeat by Italy in Warsaw, still hurts so much the task at hand is struggling to take centre stage.
The Republic of Ireland will meet a Nationalmannschaft stuck in an introspective, brooding mood. A debate about the exact reasons behind Joachim Löw’s most incisive result has raged non-stop for almost four months, and as a consequence, the feel-good factor that has been a mark of the side since the World Cup in South Africa has all but disappeared.
“There is friction [in the camp],” admitted general manager Oliver Bierhoff at yesterday’s terse press conference in Frankfurt.
Bierhoff was at pains to insist the discord in the ranks was simply a natural by-product of increased competition and as such not negative per se.
“We have a strong Bayern bloc, a strong Dortmund bloc, two confident players from Real Madrid (Sami Khedira, Mesut Özil) and the two Londoners (Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski),” said the 44-year-old.
“We’ve rarely had a situation where so many players felt they should start. We are happy and grateful this is the case. Of course, there will be some who’ll be unhappy about not getting in but the team spirit has been totally sound and I’m sure it will continue to be so.”
Not everyone would agree. Schweinsteiger, for starters, pointedly remarked that “the whole bench didn’t jump up [to celebrate a goal] at the Euros”, in an interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung 10 days ago. Bierhoff and Löw since spoke to him but he was unapologetic yesterday.
“That’s how I saw it, and that’s my opinion,” he said. A lack of harmony had also been evident in the aftermath of a nervy 2-1 away win against Austria a month ago. Dortmund centre back Mats Hummels publicly criticised Lahm’s positioning in the run-up to the hosts’ goal and a few days before, Khedira had disagreed with the Bayern full back about the team’s targets for the World Cup.