Joachim Loew must fix Germany’s leaking defence for the last three games of 2020, yet experienced centre-backs Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng remain unwanted.
Germany host Czech Republic in Leipzig on Wednesday in a friendly ahead of Saturday’s home Nations League match against Ukraine, then Spain away next Tuesday.
Switzerland held Germany to a 3-3 draw in Cologne in mid-October, six days after Turkey also put three past Loew’s side in a 3-3 draw in a friendly.
In all, Germany have conceded nine goals in five games.
Rather than recall Boateng and Hummels, Loew said Tuesday that Chelsea’s Antonio Ruediger and Robin Koch, who also plays in the Premier League for Leeds, would form the central defensive partnership against the Czechs.
Bayern team-mate Niklas Suele — Loew’s normal defensive cornerstone — is out after testing positive for coronavirus.
Loew is also without Suele’s Bayern teammate Joshua Kimmich after the midfield dynamo underwent knee surgery which will sideline him until January.
Loew admits Germany have “defensive problems”, but he wants to “put a sporting exclamation mark at the end of this difficult year” with three wins.
In order to do that, he needs to settle on a defensive formation.
The 60-year-old used a three-man defence in the first five games of 2020, when Germany leaked six goals.
He switched to a back-four against the Swiss without success, leaving Germany second in their Nations League group, a point behind Spain.
According to 1990 World Cup winner Lothar Matthaeus, Loew needs to stop experimenting and use players who can “take the game by the scruff of the neck”.
Two years on from their disastrous 2018 World Cup campaign, when they failed to qualify from the group stages, Germany have yet to put in a convincing display over 90 minutes this year.
So the German public is similarly impatient, eager for evidence the team is developing in the positive way Loew insists it is.
As former national captain Bastian Schweinsteiger put it, Germany have conceded “just too many” goals.
“That definitely needs work in order to have a chance at the European Championships” next year, Schweinsteiger said.
Hope for Goezte
Loew has come under fire for refusing to recall Jerome Boateng, 32, Mats Hummels or Thomas Mueller, both 31, who he informed in March 2019 that their Germany careers are over.
Yet the trio are all in impressive form and would provide experience the current team badly needs.
“We have basically decided not to nominate these players, nothing has changed,” Loew said recently.
Yet Mueller created a record 21 assists in the Bundesliga last season to help Bayern Munich win a domestic and European treble with Boateng as their defensive rock.
Likewise Hummels is also back to his best, marshalling Borussia Dortmund’s defence and comfortable launching counter-attacks.
Loew said Mario Goetze, who scored the winning goal in the 2014 World Cup final, could still feature next year.
After unhappy spells at Bayern and Dortmund, the 28-year-old, who last played for Germany in 2017, has rediscovered his form in the Dutch league at PSV Eindhoven.
“We’re keeping an eye on him, he seems very fresh, very agile,” Loew said of Goetze, who has scored three goals in his first six Eindhoven games.