Six things that will stay with the world champions
Invigorated coach Low finds alternatives
Draxler emerges as a leader
Strong foundation and a new trophy
By Steffen Potter with Germany
The FIFA Confederations Cup 2017 is now history – and while the same can be said of the Germany line-up assembled specifically for this tournament and unlikely ever to appear together again, the past three weeks in Russia have certainly left their mark.
These are the things that will stay with the world champions.
1) An invigorated coach After winning the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Joachim Low was practically untouchable. Yet when his squad was announced ahead of the FIFA Confederations Cup 2017, it was criticised by many, despite ample evidence that the 57-year-old can mould a team and clearly enjoys the process of doing so. In the end, he lifted a trophy no other Germany manager has clinched before. When asked what the cup meant to him, Low responded: “Winning this means that Germany are still the best team in the world right now.”
2) Alternatives sought – and found Germany lacked a cutting edge in front of goal in their UEFA EURO 2016 semi-final defeat – and in Timo Werner and Lars Stindl they have discovered two players who provide this threat in spades. While the team’s central midfield has generally consisted of Mesut Ozil, Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira in the biggest matches of the past few years, the convincing performances delivered by 22-year-old Leon Goretzka and 27-year-old Sebastian Rudy will intensify competition for places in this area. “We have created alternatives,” said Low. “That was one of the main aims of this tournament – to give young players experience in games and situations like these.”
3) A leader for the next generation Julian Draxler became Germany’s youngest captain back in May 2014, but in Russia he took on this role over several weeks at the age of just 23 – a big difference. “He has grown as skipper here,” said his delighted coach. “He was a very, very good captain both on and off the pitch. He’s still young and will have to keep developing in this role, but there’s no doubt that he has a winner’s mentality.” While many were already aware of Draxler’s ability to play in the centre of attacking midfield, his assured performances in this position for the national team – where he has generally been deployed on the wing until now – represent further progress.
4) A tried-and-tested second system Joachim Low’s previous system was based on dominance, aggressively pressuring, gegenpressing and keeping a high line. Throughout the tournament in Russia he maintained a 3-4-2-1 formation that could be geared towards attack while simultaneously enabling the team to defend more deeply and patiently than Germany have been known for in recent years. At times, their attacking play was more dynamic and flexible than it was at EURO 2016 in France – and this was one of the coach’s key objectives ahead of the tournament.
5) Laying a solid foundation The fact that Germany’s U-21 side became European champions at almost exactly the same time as a young experimental side triumphed in Russia illustrates the potential at Joachim Low’s disposal. Yet the Germany coach is the first to sound a note of caution. “For these young players, the work is only just beginning,” he explained. “They have to strive for and play at a world-class level all the time. Although the foundations are certainly strong, winning the Confederations Cup and the U-21 European Championship offers no guarantees that we can become world champions again next year.”
6) The cup!