What We Learned from Germany's Yawnworthy Draw with Netherlands

Clark WhitneyFeatured ColumnistNovember 14, 2012

What We Learned from Germany's Yawnworthy Draw with Netherlands

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    Little happened in Amsterdam on Wednesday, as understaffed Netherlands and Germany sides played to a scoreless draw in their international friendly.

    With Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira, Holger Badstuber, Jerome Boateng, Mario Gomez and Miroslav Klose all sidelined, Joachim Loew had to do without the vast majority of his Germany first team during the match.

    Louis van Gaal's Netherlands side were also without big names, with Wesley Sneijder and Robin van Persie absent, and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar rested for the full 90 minutes.

    Neither side played at full pace on the evening, and the result was a very appropriate 0-0 draw. There were a few narratives to take from the game, however. Read on for a full analysis.

Jury Is Still out on Loew's Plan to Solve the Klose Problem with a False Nine

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    With Miroslav Klose's availability for the World Cup still in question, Loew had a good chance on Wednesday to find a viable backup. It seems that the trainer has decided to do everything he can to end Lukas Podolski's international career, having left the Arsenal man out of his first XI.

    Loew may consider Podolski's best position to be behind a main striker, but the fact is undeniable that the ex-Koeln forward had vastly greater experience playing as a No. 9 than any other player in the DFB squad heading into Wednesday's match.

    And yet, Mario Goetze was chosen as the central striker, with Lewis Holtby—who was only brought into Loew's squad after extensive withdrawals—in the playmaker role.

    Germany were the better team in the first half and created several great chances to score. Marco Reus' diagonal runs from the left and into the box caused serious problems for the Dutch, and the quick, one-touch passing and close control of the Dortmund star, Goetze, Holtby and Ilkay Gundogan certainly had tactical potential: Perhaps with Mesut Ozil and Bastian Schweinsteiger in the mix, the visitors would have been a bit sharper in creating chances. On the other hand, the Germans' entire inability to finish is certainly suggestive they need a true striker.

Arjen Robben Can't Buy a Goal

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    Many Schalke fans rejoiced in the 32nd minute as it appeared that Benedikt Hoewedes had made a spectacular block after Arjen Robben had rounded goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and fired on goal. Those celebrations were premature, as it turned out that the Dutch winger had actually blocked his own shot with his standing leg. He was substituted at half-time.

    Robben's miss was the worst in a growing string of squandered opportunities. Those who have watched him regularly at Bayern have noticed the ex-Chelsea man miss out time and time again this season, his confidence has still not returned after his disastrous end to the 2011-12 club season.

Benedikt Hoewedes Deserves More Consideration in Loew's Team

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    In 2009, Benedikt Hoewedes was in better standing than Mats Hummels among Germany's central defensive talents. The Schalke man was a permanent installment in Horst Hrubesch's starting lineup alongside Jerome Boateng, with Hummels relegated to the bench.

    Things have changed in recent years and there is little doubt that Hummels is Germany's best central defender. Holger Badstuber has since emerged, and is a permanent fixture in Loew's first XI.

    The full-back position opposite Philipp Lahm is still up for grabs, however, and neither Jerome Boateng—who had a very poor Euro 2012—nor Marcel Schmelzer has entirely convinced. Hoewedes has had fewer chances, but was one of Germany's best players on Wednesday. And that, combined with his strong performances for Schalke this season, should put him at least a notch higher in the pecking order.

Dutch Are Where Germany Were in 2009: Lots of Potential, but Still in Transition

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    The Dutch squad at Euro 2008 was a real sight to behold. Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder, Rafael van der Vaart and Ruud van Nistelrooy were all either at or near their career peaks. They were, arguably, the most dangerous team in Europe at the time.

    In 2010, the Dutch were still very strong, and deservedly advanced to the World Cup final. But now things are different. Van Nistelrooy is gone, as are the likes of Mark van Bommel, Edwin van der Sar and Giovanni van Bronckhorst. Sneijder is and has long been off form, and now there are many soft spots in the Dutch team.

    The future is bright for Van Gaal's side, with the European Championship-winning U17 class of 2011 one of the the best crops of talents ever seen at its level. And the trainer has already fast-tracked several young players to the senior level in the early months of his tenure. 

    Germany are familiar with the situation the Dutch face, having had to make many adjustments and cuts between Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup. It was improbable, but Loew was able to make massive changes in just two years. Van Gaal has a good record for cultivating young talent and is absolutely the right man for the job. It will be no easy task, however.

International Friendlies Are (Mostly) Pointless

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    With so many key players missing, Loew and Van Gaal had chances to experiment with their squads and introduce new players. However, with nothing riding on the result, neither side had any interest to pick up the pace and give their best effort.

    And why should they? Schweinsteiger and Kroos were photographed in Bayern training on Wednesday, clearly not exactly "unfit" to at least turn out for their national team. With the Bayern pair as an example, with it abundantly clear that the reputations of the players and teams would be in no way affected by the result, there was no reason to give 100 percent for 90 minutes. And that's why the game was played at a snail's pace.

     

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