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Can Germany end Joachim Low's reign with a bang?
Can Germany end Joachim Low's reign with a bang?

Three-time European Championship winners Germany are at the end of a cycle as they prepare to start their Euro 2020 campaign.

Head coach Joachim Low will step down from his role after 15 years at the helm, during which time he has delivered the World Cup and Confederations Cup.

Can he mark his departure by adding one more trophy to the collection?

Background

Low, 61, will be replaced by outgoing Bayern Munich boss and former assistant Hansi Flick after the tournament. 

So in one last roll of the dice, he has recalled the previously exiled Thomas Muller, 31, and Mats Hummels, 32, to beef up a squad in a state of flux.

If Die Mannschaft are looking for omens, their last Euro triumph came on English soil against the Czech Republic in 1996.

Ending his tenure by lifting the trophy at Wembley would be a fitting way for Low to bow out.

How they qualified

Qualification was never in doubt for Germany, who have not missed a European Championship since 1968.

In fact, they have only failed to reach the final four three times since then, in 1984, 2000 and 2004.

Low’s side finished top of Group C with seven wins from eight, two points better off than the Netherlands — though their rivals snatched a 4-2 victory in Hamburg on matchday four.

More worrying is Germany’s recent run of form. 

As well as being beaten by lowly North Macedonia in their last World Cup qualifier, their 6-0 Nations League defeat to Spain was an aberration.

The line-up

Who will lead the attack for Germany?
Who will lead the attack for Germany?

It is hard to second-guess Low’s preferred starting XI for the Euros given the surprise recall of veteran duo Muller and Hummels, who were cast out alongside Jerome Boateng in 2019.

A switch to 4-3-3 for their last four competitive fixtures suggested a flirtation with a back three was over — until it returned in their recent 1-1 draw with Denmark.

But Germany’s lack of settled full-backs could change that again.

Lukas Klostermann, Matthias Ginter, Robin Gosens and Emre Can have all been deployed in both full-back positions, without anyone making either job their own.

Things are more settled in midfield where Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka and Ilkay Gundogan have been mainstays.

Up front, Low must pick between Kai Havertz, Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane, Timo Werner and Muller.

Predicted line-up: Neuer; Klostermann, Rudiger, Hummels, Gosens; Goretzka, Kimmich, Gundogan; Muller, Gnabry, Sane.

Star man: Serge Gnabry

In a side badly out of sorts and with several starting places up for grabs, the inclusion of Bayern Munich attacker Gnabry, 25, is one of the few certainties.

He arrives at the Euros having just hit double figures for the fifth league campaign in a row with Die Roten, though his 10 goals and five assists fell short of the previous season’s return of 23 Bundesliga goal contributions (12 goals and 11 assists).

The former Arsenal youngster has taken on an increasingly important role for the national side, netting eight times in just seven Euro 2020 qualifiers.

Bayern Munich star Serge Gnabry has been in fine form
Bayern Munich star Serge Gnabry has been in fine form

Up-and-comer: Jamal Musiala

In a parallel universe, 18-year-old wonderkid Jamal Musiala could have been playing for England this summer.

Born in Stuttgart to a British-Nigerian father and German mother, the midfielder represented the Three Lions at Under-21 level as recently as November 2020.

Speaking at the time, German youth coach Meikel Schonweitz said: "He has clearly signalled to us that he currently sees his future with the English national teams. We accept his decision and wish him all the best for his sporting career."

However, a U-turn in February saw Musiala declare for Germany and he was capped for the first time as a substitute against Iceland in March.

No one at Bayern attempted (6.12 per 90 minutes) more dribbles in 2020-21 or completed as many take-ons (3.78) as the teenage prodigy.

Musiala was regularly deployed on the left by Flick, enabling him to drift inside to create openings for his team-mates.

The boss: Joachim Low

After 15 years in the hot seat and 17 working in the national team set-up, Low is preparing to step down.

Going into the tournament, he has a better than 60% win ratio across almost 200 games in the dugout.

What makes Low’s time as Germany boss all the more remarkable is that his coaching career up to that point — mostly spent in the Austrian Bundesliga — had been nothing to write home about.

A UEFA Cup runner-up with Stuttgart in the 90s, the DFB-Pokal is his only honour in German football.

Stints with Austria Wien and Tirol Innsbruck yielded silverware but Low’s time as Germany boss is by some distance the highlight of his CV.

Another international triumph would cap a remarkable dynasty as Germany coach.

All information correct as of midday, June 4, 2021

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GermanyEuropean Championship

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