Football

Loew to start making 'tough decisions'

Germany coach Joachim Loew says he will use the upcoming friendlies against England and France to start making some "tough decisions" ahead of next year's World Cup defence in Russia.

Germany face England at Wembley on Saturday morning (Singapore time) and host France in Cologne four days later.

The German squad gather in Berlin today to prepare for the double-header with goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and forwards Thomas Mueller and Marco Reus sidelined by injury.

Even without the star trio, Germany has an embarrassment of riches with new names pushing the established stars who won the 2014 World Cup.

The gamble of taking an inexperienced squad of fringe players to Russia for the Confederations Cup in June paid off for Loew.

Rising stars Timo Werner, Leon Goretzka and Niklas Suele all seized their chance to impress.

Now Loew has numerous options for the England and France friendlies, which are set to spark a fight for places in his 23-man World Cup squad.

"We have to make tough decisions," said Loew in Berlin, with Germany also set to face Spain and Brazil in friendlies next March.

"If you want to be world champions, you need world-class players.

"We have to have an incredibly strong squad where every player is in top shape - everyday and every minute."

The challenge for the Germans will be to repeat their Brazil 2014 success as the team to beat in Russia.

"We are the only team that can get worse - everyone will compete against us with huge motivation," said Loew.

"We are the world champions and Confederations Cup winners - the world's No. 1."

In particular, Loew will use the England game to look at the left-back position.

His first-choice fullback, Cologne's Jonas Hector, is injured, leaving Marvin Plattenhardt of Hertha Berlin and RB Leipzig's uncapped Marcel Halstenberg vying for the berth.

The German coach believes the Three Lions will prove a stern test for his side, with Loew calling Gareth Southgate's team the best England side in years.

He told German daily Die Welt on Sunday: "My opinion is the (England) team hasn't been this strong in years.

"They rely far less on long balls.

"All the big clubs in England have coaches who put a lot of value on putting together combinations of passes.

"You also see it in the national team, where there is more emphasis on tactics." - AFP

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