Oezil's lost, lonely and a liability
Oezil must rediscover his form quickly or risk being left in the wilderness by Loew
(Thomas Mueller 66, Andre Schuerrle 71)
(Samuel Eto'o 62, Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting 78)
Mesut Oezil was not awful against Cameroon. He was anonymous.
At the very least, a blooper's reel suggests a level of commitment. Mistakes mean a player has been involved. But where they should have been a sense of inclusiveness yesterday morning (Singapore time), there was only indifference.
The German playmaker was an outsider from kick-off until his inevitable substitution.
Coach Joachim Loew wasn't resting his star in the World Cup warm-up in Monchengladbach. He was putting him out of his misery.
When the stadium announcer unwisely referenced Oezil, boos echoed around the stadium. Less than two weeks before Germany's critical Group G opener against Portugal, this was hardly a ringing endorsement.
The madcap, error-strewn 2-2 draw is not uncommon of friendlies on the eve of a major tournament, when packs are shuffled in a final effort to pull out any unwanted jokers.
Based on this showing, Oezil looked the likeliest court jester. But his performance left no one laughing in the Germany camp.
After the game, Loew was adamant that his prized asset will be polished in time for the Brazilian spotlight, making the salient point about the foolhardiness of peaking too soon.
Roy Hodgson has been saying much the same on Wayne Rooney's lackadaisical efforts.
By that rationale, Oezil will explode all over the World Cup. He held everything back against the Indomitable Lions, who lived up to their nickname with some feisty challenges that were anything but friendly.
At the heart of midfield, Sami Khedira and Toni Kroos were often targeted, but they continued to present themselves, mostly comfortable in possession. They ran. Oezil hid.
The consensus suggests Germany are among the World Cup's favoured four, along with Argentina, Brazil and Spain. But their progress pivots around their creative fulcrum.
As the Germans aptly demonstrated for more than an hour against Cameroon, they can't find the openings if they can't find Oezil. Until he was substituted, Oezil appeared to be playing hide and seek exceptionally well with himself.
His body language was worrying, reminiscent of his lack of interest in applauding Arsenal's away support after a similarly tepid display against Manchester City, which earned him a public rebuke from Per Mertesacker.
Germany's captain might have been even less diplomatic in the dressing room yesterday.
With first-skipper Philipp Lahm still not ready and Bastian Schweinsteiger not risked, Oezil's role assumed greater significance against Cameroon.
Tasked with linking both the lines between Khedira and Kroos and Marco Reus and Thomas Mueller, and finding false No. 9 Mario Goetze, Oezil did neither. Instead he drifted away from play like a feather caught in the breeze.
His peripheral role was further undermined by the lively Reus, tormenting both his fullback and his tentative teammate on the other flank with his tenacity.
Germany improved markedly after Oezil departed, the second goal coming from fine interplay between the two substitutes - Lukas Podolski and scorer Andre Schuerrle.
And the opener resulted from an instinctive dash into the box from Mueller to nod in Jerome Boateng's cross; the sort of assist and finish associated with Oezil.
The goals were decent, but the friendly presented more problems than solutions for Loew.
For all their early possession, Germany were let down by powder-puff finishing and the absence of a cutting edge in the final third.
Samuel Eto'o's opening goal for Cameroon involved three teammates in the build-up, all seemingly marked. The Africans got the decisive touch on all three occasions before the ball finally crossed the line.
Apart from his excellent cross, Boateng played truant with Oezil for long periods. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting profited with an excellent strike. He irritated Boateng throughout. The enthusiastic winger is going to enjoy the World Cup.
Boateng will not if he continues to chug along like a late-running tube on the London Underground. Mind the gap.
But it is Oezil's inconsistencies that will pound away at Loew's thinking like an insufferable headache.
The under-fire coach has one more opportunity - against Armenia on Saturday morning in the last World Cup warm-up - to suppress the nagging suspicion being whispered around Germany and shouted from the rooftops by Real Madrid fans still celebrating a Champions League triumph.
On current form, the Germans might be better off without Oezil.
The midfielder has one more game to come in from the wilderness. Or Loew might just leave him there.
Mesut has not had his best day. He needs two more weeks, then we'll see a strong Mesut at the World Cup.
- Germany coach Joachim Loew, on the misfiring Mesut Oezil
You could see the freshness was missing, our passing game wasn't good and we made many, many mistakes. It's something we need to work on, our chance-conversion rate is not optimal. We also gave away far too much of the ball and we left too many gaps between midfield and defence in the closing stages.
- Loew, on what went wrong for Germany
For long spells, we didn't play well. As long as we keep losing possession quickly, we'll have problems against any other side in the world.
- Germany centre back Per Mertesacker
Eto'o's form boosts Cameroon
Striker Samuel Eto'o has given his side a timely World Cup boost with an impressive display in their 2-2 draw with Germany in an international friendly yesterday morning (Singapore time), says Cameroon coach Volker Finke.
The 33-year-old Cameroon captain had laboured with groin and hamstring injuries during the Indomitable Lions pre-World Cup camp in Austria.
But, the Chelsea star, who is now a free agent and has been linked to a move to Arsenal, produced an impressive display over 90 minutes against Germany in Moenchengladbach yesterday morning.
He was a constant menace to the hosts' defence and put Cameroon ahead with a well-taken 62nd-minute strike.
And he created the best chance of the first half with a superb defence-splitting pass, which Benjamin Moukandjo failed to convert.
With 114 caps and now 55 goals for Cameroon, Eto'o is a key factor in his country's bid to reach the World Cup knockout stages for the first time since 1990.
"I'm pleased he lasted so long after coming to us injured from Chelsea. We'll have to see how he is in the next few days," said Finke.
"With his quality, he always presents himself in dangerous situations and he's simply an exceptional striker."
Eto'o missed last Thursday's 2-1 friendly defeat by Paraguay and Cameroon's German boss Finke had said the veteran would "play only a few minutes" against Germany.
Finke's Indomitable Lions play their final warm-up match against Moldovia in Yaounde on Sunday morning, having drawn with Germany after Eric Choupo-Moting's late equaliser.
Their opening World Cup match is against Mexico on June 13 in Group A, where they also face Brazil and Croatia.
"It was important to get a good result against Germany and show what we can do, but the all important thing for us now is June 13," added Finke. - AFP.
Only one recognised striker for Loew
Germany will travel to Brazil with only one out-and-out striker, after coach Joachim Loew dropped Kevin Volland when he named his final 23-man squad yesterday.
Hoffenheim forward Volland joined defenders Shkodran Mustafi and Marcel Schmelzer, still nursing a knee injury, as the three players left out of the final squad. - Reuters.
Goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer, Roman Weidenfeller, Ron-Robert Zieler
Defenders: Jerome Boateng, Kevin Grosskreutz, Erik Durm, Benedikt Hoewedes, Mats Hummels, Per Mertesacker, Philipp Lahm
Midfielders: Julian Draxler, Matthias Ginter, Mario Goetze, Christoph Kramer, Sami Khedira, Toni Kroos, Thomas Mueller, Mesut Oezil, Lukas Podolski, Marco Reus, Andre Schuerrle, Bastian Schweinsteiger
Forward: Miroslav Klose