Wednesday’s soccer news starts with group F at Euro 2020. Joachim Low’s last tournament as Germany coach means navigating one of the toughest groups possible in world soccer right now. There, he’ll get an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that his ideas still resonate at the highest level.
Germany is as close to an all-star team as exists in Europe right now, starting in goal with Manuel Neuer and running through Thomas Muller at the top of the attack. That doesn’t make them the strongest team in their group with both the defending World Cup and Euro champions. There’s significant pressure on Low’s squad to get it right, closing out his era in charge on a high.
“He is just the same as he’s always been, he hasn’t changed,” Germany’s Emre Can said of Low. “He wants to achieve something at the Euros, as do all of us in the squad. We can start the Euros with confidence because we have a really, really good team with a good mix of experience and younger players.”
It’s an interesting situation for Low’s Germany this time. They’re not the favorites to advance from Group D. Most would pick France in a group that also includes defending champion Portugal. Germany opens against France on June 15 and then plays Portugal on June 19. Their final group stage game against Hungary is on June 23.
So the focus is immediately on that game against France. With France nominally the home side, it’s set for Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena. That bit of creative scheduling is part of moving games all over Europe, decided pre-pandemic as a way to involve more countries. Germany plays all their games in Munich, depending on how you look at it, a key advantage or potentially adding to the pressure.
How they match against the defending World Cup champions with points on the line is the question. Germany lost at home to North Macedonia in the final of their three March World Cup qualifiers. All of the games in that window happened after Low announced his eventual resignation. Their last game against a country in FIFA’s top ten was a 6-0 loss at Spain in the Nations League in November. France lost 2-0 at home to Finland in a friendly during that same window, potentially pointing to the kind of disruptive parity we saw during the club seasons.
As SI’s Jonathan Wilson put it following the November window, Low’s Germany isn’t German soccer as we know it. He highlights the talent vs results problem, compounded by successful German clubs. With Bayern coach Hansi Flick replacing Low after this tournament, there’s a clear indication the DFB agrees. Low’s legacy doesn’t depend on this tournament, but it’s that opportunity to show that he can still win the games that matter.
The criticisms directed at Pep Guardiola following Manchester City’s loss in the Champions League final show just how much tactics and roster decisions still matter. This isn’t a game where elite players take over. It still relies on organization and ideas coming alive on the field. If that’s Low’s Germany at the earliest opportunity at Euro 2020, it will set the tone for what could be a remarkable group stage.
The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jonathan Tannenwald with the rising profile of the USMNT. American Soccer Now’s Brian Sciaretta profiles USMNT and Lille forward Timothy Weah. The Athletic’s Jeff Rueter and Pablo Maurer report on MLS planning on a reserve league for 2022. Soccer America’s Paul Gardner takes issue with the Champions League final.
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