Germany’s Joachim Loew has questioned whether his youngsters are up to scratch at Euro 2016 as he looks set to stick with the world champions’ experienced stars against Northern Ireland.
Loew cast an eye to the future by including talented midfielders Joshua Kimmich, 21, and 20-year-olds Julian Weigl and Leroy Sane for the European Championship finals.
None of the trio have played a minute of Germany’s Group C matches – a 2-0 win over Ukraine and a goalless draw with Poland.
Loew has not been afraid to blood young talent in key Germany matches at previous tournaments, when he deemed the likes of Andre Schuerrle and Mario Goetze ready for action. But Loew looks set to stick to the tried and tested in Tuesday’s final group game against Northern Ireland with the Germans needing a point to progress.
“They do all what is required of them and they do well in training, but you can feel ‘this is the national team’ – they need to get used to the tempo and the quality,” said Loew. “You have to find the right point in time. A game where there is a lot going on is an especially pressure situation for a young player.”
Defender Jerome Boateng is set to start against the Northern Irish in Paris despite suffering a bruised hip against Poland. Captain Bastian Schweinsteiger netted a late goal in the win over Ukraine off the bench, but sat out the Poland draw.
The 31-year-old Manchester United star and Germany’s midfield general is being held back for the knockout stages, but may come off the bench. “He’s on the right track,” said Loew.
Die Mannschaft is slowly starting to find its form at these championships. Loew considered the win over Ukraine “okay”, while the goalless draw in Poland gave him no cause for concern. “I didn’t have to change anything in midfield and at the back,” he said, having brought winger Schuerrle and striker Mario Gomez on against the Poles.
But Loew is clearly annoyed at comments made by ex-Germany captain Michael Ballack in the German media that the team is missing “character and personality” and lacks strong leaders.
There is bad blood between the pair, who had a public fall out in 2008.
Ballack was still captain then and criticised Loew for the way he treated senior players after veteran Torsten Frings was dropped. “Nothing surprises me anymore,” said Loew with an air of annoyance yesterday. “These things are repeated so often and just pass me by,” he added, having heard the same criticism in 2014 before Germany went on to win the World Cup.
“I read something from a former leading player and it conjured up a smile on my face. In 2014, we already had the same discussion. Then we won the World Cup and suddenly everyone was an awesome leader. Now we’ve been held in a goalless draw and the discussion comes again. In all honesty, it’s all been said before.”
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