Germany's Youngest-Ever Team Impresses as Low Gives Fans a Glimpse of the Future

Clark WhitneyFeatured ColumnistMay 13, 2014

Team Germany pose prior to a friendly soccer match between Germany and Poland in Hamburg, Germany, Tuesday, May 13, 2014.  (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

An experimental and extremely inexperienced Germany team played to a scoreless draw with Poland on Tuesday in a preliminary test for those nominated to Joachim Low's 30-man squad for the 2014 World Cupand a consolation for a few who came close but will not train with the team as they compete for 23 spots in the trainer's final, 23-man roster.

Compared to their usual, dazzling standard, the Mannschaft's performance on Tuesday was underwhelming. But considering the players Low had available, the fact that they were able to play fluent football against a strong (if partially depleted) Polish team is very impressive.

Low named eight debutantes to his first XI; the other three starters had a combined 13 caps prior to Tuesday, 10 of which belonged to 20-year-old captain Julian Draxler.

The players in Low's XI had precious little experience even training, let alone playing, with one another. Attacking midfielders Leon Goretzka, Max Meyer and Draxler indeed hail from the same Schalke team and some of the starters had played a few games together in the German under-21 national team. But across the XI, seven clubs were represented across seven different age groups.

Three days before, the Germans (Sampdoria's Shkodran Mustafi aside) competed in the last matchday of the Bundesliga season. But despite having almost no time to train together, they played cohesive, proficient football.

Although none shined as a true match-winner, the players for the most part knew their respective roles. They defended well as a team and weren't caught on the counter-attack like Low's A-team has so many times in recent months.

Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

Not everything went perfectly for Germany, it must be conceded. They lacked finishing quality in the attacking third and all but a couple were missing a softness in the touch that characterizes senior players like Mesut Ozil and Mario Gotze.

The holding midfielders were also rather errant in their passing at times and Draxler was far too eager to play the role of hero, the captain perhaps trying too hard to produce the spectacular from a number of long-distance efforts and failed attempts to dribble through several among the Polish defense.

Despite Germany's deficiencies, it's worth noting that few (if any) countries could produce a team of average age under 21.5 and expect it to, with just one day's preparation, play such mature, cultured football. Germany played their youngest-ever team on Tuesday and may have lacked some quality in the final third, but that class is sure to come as the likes of Draxler and Meyer mature.

If Low were to have inserted any of a number of his starters from Tuesday into his senior squad, the team would hardly miss a beat. And if he were to use the same team in five years, it would surely be much better and could perhaps contain a couple starters from his best overall XI.

Tuesday's performance was further evidence that the philosophy of football the German FA (DFB) has worked to standardize across Bundesliga academies and especially with its youth national teams is working.

Being nominated to the national team does not require learning a new system, it instead is very familiar football among new teammates. And in an era in which meaningless post-season club friendlies often limit a national team's time to prepare for major international tournaments, it gives Germany an advantage.

Fans caught a glimpse of Germany's future on Tuesday, and the future looked bright indeed. It marked the first start for many Germany internationals, including Meyer, Goretzka and Matthias Ginter. And it certainly will not be the last.


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