Loew's Germany are a mess, says Neil Humphreys
Germany risk Euro disaster with tactical and defensive mayhem
(Mario Gomez 12-pen)
(Marek Hamsik 41, Michal Duris 44, Juraj Kucka 52)
At the stroke of midnight tonight, Joachim Loew risks turning into a pumpkin.
The Germany coach must finalise his 23-man squad for Euro 2016, but his defence is in disarray and his scattershot selections are baffling.
He succumbed to tactical schizophrenia yesterday morning (Singapore time), using his penultimate friendly to throw caution to the wind, along with common sense and any sort of cohesion.
Friendlies are for experimentation, but the 3-1 home loss to Slovakia was not so much a gentle tinker as it was a tournament suicide attempt.
Loew defended his surreal selections, which essentially comprised a second-string 11 apart from Jerome Boateng and Mario Goetze, but the growing discomfort with Germany's preparations back home were entirely justified.
A third defeat in four games was less significant than the world champions' inability to produce back-to-back victories in 2016, a damning indictment of a nation renowned for its industrialised consistency.
But coherence begins in the home dugout and Loew's baffling trial-and-error approach to his Euro 2016 preparations is a cause for concern.
Just 11 days before the start of the tournament, Loew picked a vital friendly against a Slovakian side doing a decent impression of dark horses to play a 3-5-1-1 formation, or maybe it was a 3-2-3-1-1, or even a 3-2-3-2.
It didn't really matter because the Germans clearly were none the wiser and the fluid farce in front of Bernd Leno's goal achieved nothing other than magnify that stubborn Achilles' heel.
Germany can no longer defend.
Watching the Teutonic tortoises fail to catch Marek Hamsik before his wonder goal or anyone in a Slovakian jersey at set-pieces, it almost seemed as if Loew's tactical mayhem was a cunning ruse.
Like a magician in a crisp white shirt and skilled in the art of misdirection, he packed his line-up with inexperienced strangers and shuffled the pack in a bid to distract from the illusion of a settled defence.
Germany's back three were a disaster. Only when Loew returned to a defensive four in the second half was a semblance of normality restored.
Loew went with three at the back presumably because he didn't have four. He scarcely had three.
Antonio Ruidger and Joshua Kimmich are bright, young centre backs, clearly benefiting from the Bundesliga's youth academy model that has revolutionised the national game.
But that doesn't mean they are equipped to handle Euro 2016.
They couldn't handle Slovakia.
A veteran in comparison, Boateng was left painfully exposed. Squeezed between the two new kids in the box, he was a picture of hesitancy, missing his usual colleagues Mats Hummels and Benedikt Howedes.
Despite the understandable emphasis on Germany's youthful attacking enterprise, their obdurate defence earned them the World Cup in Brazil.
At Euro 2016, they'll be lucky to survive the knockout stages, unless Loew settles on a system and specific personnel that minimises the risk of human error.
Slovakia's three goals were all avoidable.
Hamsik's goal was spectacular, but Boateng had already laid out the red carpet, allowing the Slovakian to progress unchallenged.
Michal Duris' glancing header somehow escaped the attention of three German watchmen, dozing at the near post.
And Marc-Andre ter Stegen did his selection prospects no good at all in allowing Juraj Kucka's weak, slippery shot to make contact with almost every one of the goalkeeper's body parts before sliding over the line.
But the damage was arguably done in the dugout.
Loew fielded Jonas Hector and Sebastian Rudy in wingback roles that were neither here nor there, not offering the wobbly back three enough protection and seldom supporting an unusually narrow line-up.
Sami Khedira, Leroy Sane and Mario Gomez hugged the German spine, which made for an anorexic attack with no width.
Obviously, Thomas Mueller, Marco Reus, Manuel Neuer and Hummels and Toni Kroos were either rested or recovering, but an uncertainty has dogged an erratic Germany for most of the calendar year.
Ahead of a final warm-up against Hungary on Saturday, Loew's preferred line-up, formation and, most importantly, defensive structure are impossible to predict.
In recent years, the coach has succeeded in ridding his country of that old stereotype. Germany are no longer mechanical grinders at international tournaments, but entertaining movers and shakers.
The difference between liberation and disorganisation, however, was easily measured against Slovakia.
The Germans were a mess.
Loew has one friendly to pull back on the endless tinkering and fix the porous defence before Euro 2016.
He lost the plot against Slovakia. If it happens again in France, he'll lose his job.
"We found it hard to get into the game, because we had a lot of respect, even a bit of fear of the world champions. The Germans were better, until we shook them with our (first) goal."
- Slovakia coach Jan Kozak
There are at least six teams, including Germany, who can win Euro 2016, Joachim Loew said in an interview with Uefa.com. He rates France, Spain, Italy, England and Belgium as the other contenders.
GERMANY 1MISSING THE MARK: Slovakia's Juraj Kucka evading a sliding tackle by German defender Jonas Hector on the wet pitch. PHOTO: AFP
Germany coach won't blame debutants
Germany coach Joachim Loew says he is not holding his four debutants responsible for a 3-1 defeat by Slovakia yesterday morning (Singapore time) which was a welcome wake-up call ahead of Euro 2016.
Bernd Leno, Julian Brandt, Julian Weigl (above) and Joshua Kimmich all picked up their first senior caps on a night which will not have helped Loew a great deal as he ponders who to leave out of his final 23-man selection for the European Championship.
However, he said the prospects of the quartet he blooded have not been influenced by his team's collective performance on a sodden Augsburg pitch.
"It's the overall impression I have got from them over recent weeks and months which will matter," Loew told ARD television.
"We cannot expect everything from the young lads in a game like this, but all four of them have quality and they've got bright futures.
"After a game like this, what matters most is that we don't have any injuries.
"We've got a meeting with the doctors now to see how long Mats Hummels, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Marco Reus are going to need before they are fit."
Mario Gomez's penalty was cancelled out before half-time by Marek Hamsik and Michal Duris, and Juraj Kucka added a third after an error by goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
The performance of Leroy Sane, who is one of the players Loew must make a decision about today, was one of the few positives to emerge from the defeat.
"I was happy with our forwards," Loew said. "We had a few good attacks and made some good runs, but to be quite honest we still have problems in defence.
"Maybe that's also because we played with two support men, in Mario Goetze and Julian Draxler. That gave Slovakia too much room."
The heavy rain which fell during half-time and forced a delay in the restart of play almost made a mockery of the second half but, according to Goetze, it was a useful exercise.
"I think it's good for us to have to play in these difficult conditions here," said the Bayern Munich playmaker.
"We've got to be ready for everything in France so it's not bad to test this.
"It was hard to play in these conditions in the second half, but I was glad to get 90 minutes under my belt and I'm looking forward to the games to come."
Germany face Hungary in their final warm-up match ahead of Euro 2016 on Saturday.
Their first Euro 2016 fixture is against Ukraine on June 12. - PA Sport.