Germany vs. Poland: 6 Things We Learned
Joachim Loew's makeshift Germany team were helpless to overcome a stern Polish side on Tuesday evening, as both sides drew 0-0 on a quiet spring night in Hamburg's Millerntor-Stadion.
Although the game itself had never been billed as anything but a pre-World Cup friendly in which the German Bundestrainer had hoped to iron out a few creases before the big night in Rio, we were instead welcomed to a German national team full to the brim with young Bundesliga debutants.
Without the likes of Marco Reus, Bastian Schweinsteiger or Mezut Ozil, who were still away on duty for their respective clubs, Loew had instead opted to start an entirely new side and test the best of Germany's top division against a decent Polish squad.
As brave and bold as we may have ever seen Loew throughout his time as Germany's head coach, the game itself soon descended into anything but a spectacle, as the young squad kept their shape and defended well but did very little when it came to attacking the Polish defence.
Partner this with an opponent built around a defensive unit and that would usually be led offensively by Borussia Dortmund duo Robert Lewandowski and Jakub Blaszczykowski, and you have two teams who seemed intent on shutting up shop long before they considered breaking down the opponent.
There were of course positives to take from the game. Germany's young stars looked anything but out of their depth, while even some of the defensive players such as Freiburg's Oliver Sorg and Sampdoria's Shkodran Mustafi looked more than content at such a level.
In essence it was the failure of more familiar players such as Julian Draxler and Hoffenheim's Kevin Volland, who will undoubtedly make the trip to Brazil, that failed to excite and offer any real reason for their inclusion this summer.
A good game in theory, but one that ultimately offered very little for Loew to work with ahead of his biggest test this summer.
Loew Goes for Youthful Experiment
In a friendly match that was poorly planned between the domestic schedule of Germany and Europe's top clubs, Loew was essentially forced to play a team of youngsters while the majority of his senior side still played out the remainder of their campaigns.
This involved the introduction of fringe players who had played a part in the national team setup before, such as Hannover 96's Ron-Robert Zieler and Schalke's Julian Draxler, while a whole host of young, exciting Bundesliga players such as Kevin Volland of Hoffenheim, Leon Goretzka of Schalke and Borussia Moenchengladbach's Christoph Kramer all made their introduction to the international stage.
As such, this useless friendly in turn became something of a contest, as the young stars of tomorrow tried to impress their national coach against a strong Poland side. However, they were ultimately not good enough to claim victory over their first international foes.
Poland Offer Strong Test with Experienced Side
Poland took to the task of overcoming a young German side with a team of their own that was of regular first-team players.
From Southampton's Artur Boruc in goal and Steaua Bucharest's Lukasz Szukała in defence, to the likes of Grzegorz Krychowiak and the Bundesliga's own Ludovic Obraniak in midfield, Poland head coach Adam Nawałka chose to start a strong squad against what could be the very players who potentially challenge them later this year in the Euro 2016 qualifying group.
Ultimately it resulted in a game of two equal teams that did well to cancel each other out. Not a classic by any means, but a well contested game of football.
Volland Will Be Germany's Back-Up Striker
Despite many of these German players standing very little chance of making it into the final squad for Brazil, one young star who will almost undoubtedly make the plane trip is striker Kevin Volland.
For amongst all the stars in Loew's 30-man squad, the 21 year old Bundesliga starlet is only one of two traditional forwards that will be available to the national team coach.
What Volland undoubtedly offers is the athleticism, physique and general selfish ethos of a striker that looks so alien to any midfielder-turned-strikers such as Mario Goetze, Marco Reus and even Thomas Mueller. With a solid goal-scoring record in the Bundesliga to boot.
Although the Hoffenheim striker is unlikely to feature too heavily for Germany in this coming World Cup, his very presence covers the unlikely scenario that Loew will need another number nine in the absence of Miroslav Klose, should the Lazio striker pick up an injury.
Few Too Many Options for Inclusion in Final Squad
In a game that was supposed to showcase the bright new future of Germany's national team, we were ultimately let down and instead witnessed what seemed like nothing more than a casual juniors match between two uninterested sides.
Despite a heavy dose of the benefit of the doubt, Germany simply lacked any sense of urgency and the energy needed to break to down a side as good as Poland. As the crowd succumbed to quiet mumblings far too early in the night, both sides simply went through the motions without offering anything to write home about.
Even the more experienced players such as wonder-kid Draxler suffered to show any initiative, as the prince of the Royal Blues floated in and out of a game that was asked to captain Germany through on only his 10th cap.
In a team that showed so much promise, Loew found himself once again watching from the sidelines with a disturbed look. There were no solutions to his potential troubles in Brazil among this young batch of players.
Germany Continue to Stick with 4-2-3-1 Formation
One of the more discreet aspects of Germany's team tonight was the fact that Loew opted to play his side of youngsters in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
These tactics are significant because they are exactly as the head coach has opted to play the full-fledged side in the past three friendlies, suggesting that the trigger-happy manager may have finally found the formation that he is hoping to use at the coming World Cup.
Playing within this style in such a game also suggests that not only is Loew trying to decipher which young stars he wishes to take with him to Brazil, but also that he wants to give whoever is picked an opportunity to play in the system that the first team will feature.
Germany Blessed with an Abundance of Young Talent
Although the majority of tonight's friendly offered very little to show the true extent of Germany's young generation of stars, the simple concept that Poland could be held by what was effectively a "C" team was a testament to these fledgling internationals.
Although some looked jaded and dribbled over the ball with the laboured look of one too many games from this current campaign, each player did himself proud and suggested that despite playing a relatively dismissive game he was able to perform at this level.
Loew opted to bring on more seasoned players in Benedikt Howedes and Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, but this game was one that was drawn through this christened junior side, a group of players with a very big future.