5 Things We Learned from Germany's 0-0 Draw Against Poland
A young and inexperienced Germany played Poland to a 0-0 draw on Tuesday in Hamburg in the first of three friendlies leading up to the World Cup in Brazil.
The absence of the Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal and Real Madrid contingents due to club duties left coach Jogi Low with no option but to call up a roster largely made up of players who have yet to win a cap for the senior team.
But despite what may seem like a lackluster game on the surface, it was an experiment that proved very valuable to Low, not only in preparation for Brazil, but in beginning to integrate the next generation of talented young players.
Germany Make History
The match may have been underwhelming but it was a landmark game in the national team's 106-year history.
This was the youngest German national team of all time with an average age of 21.45, beating the previous youngest team, which was 21.5 and occurred back in the team's very first game in 1908.
The starting lineup had a combined 13 caps between them, and 10 of those belonged to 20-year-old captain on the day, Julian Draxler.
Draxler and a couple of other players aside, the game showed that as talented as many of these players are, they are not ready yet to make the step to the senior level.
Eight players got their debuts to start and four others joined them in the second half. Never before in national team history have there been that many debuts in one match.
At the very least, the game will be memorable for setting a record that probably will not be broken again anytime soon.
Too Soon for Some
Germany were understandably not at their fluid best given the inexperience out there. However, the game showed that for all the talent on the roster, some of the players are not quite ready yet to make the leap to the senior level.
Perhaps it was the fact that they were played out of their usual club positions but both fullbacks, Antonio Rudiger and Oliver Sorg, struggled to make a real impact on the game or to find the right time to make overlapping runs to support the attack.
Similarly, Leon Goretzka and Max Meyer were too zealous sometimes and at others too cautious and afraid to make a mistake. Their play was predictable and easy to defend against. The outcome was an isolated Kevin Volland up top and a Julian Draxler that tried to take the game on a bit too much on his own.
None of the second half substitutes managed to impress in their cameos either, and the result was a group of extremely talented young players looking quite ordinary collectively.
To be fair, it was their debut, and all will undoubtedly get better with experience. That said, don't expect many of them to return to the national team anytime soon again.
Zieler the Right Choice
When Low announced his 30-man provisional roster last week (in German) a lot of the attention was focused on the omission of Mario Gomez, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Rene Adler.
Mario Gomez's injury-ridden season justified his decision but Adler has been a part of the national team for years while Ter Stegen has been one of the best performers in the league this year.
As a result, Ron-Robert Zieler's inclusion was met with plenty of negativity to say the least. Prior to the Poland game he had amassed only two caps and struggled with his form at times this season.
However, Zieler has always been a reliable and focused goalkeeper for club and country. Despite the nature of the Poland game, Zieler was a force of stability behind a back line that had never played together before.
Zieler is one of the best shot-stoppers in Germany, and his organization and leadership have been a significant part of Hannover's success over the years.
The third-choice goalkeeper rarely gets any minutes at a World Cup, but if Zieler does get called upon in Brazil, Low has nothing to worry about.
Low Should Take Volland to Brazil
In hindsight, Kevin Volland did not have a great performance. In fact, it was quite subdued, and he had fewer touches than any of the players that started.
Germany's passive and non-threatening possession left him stranded in the box at times, and he was forced to come out and look for the ball himself, negating his supposed role up front even more.
However, Volland's all-around ability, mobility and versatility make him the ideal striker in Low's system. If Low is looking for an alternative to the fox-in-the-box type like Klose, then Volland should be on the plane to Brazil come June.
Volland's performance may not have been memorable, but the way he brings others into play along with his eagerness to get on the ball in the box and look to shoot combines attributes Low may be looking for in a false nine.
The Hoffenheim attacker deserves another chance to prove his worth with a better, more experienced supporting cast around him. The payoff could be enormous come next month.
4-2-3-1 May Not Be Best Way to Go
Low stuck to his tried and tested 4-2-3-1 here. It's a system many of the players were familiar with and play in for their clubs.
It is also a system that at times has looked limited for the national team. Germany's problems against Poland looked a lot like their problems during qualifying and in friendlies.
Germany were linear, not incisive enough and failed to really make their domination count. Progress and getting the best out of his personnel may necessitate a system change ahead of Brazil.
With players like Marco Reus, Thomas Mueller, Mario Gotze and Andre Schurrle, Germany have attackers that also fill in up top and are therefore wasted playing out wide in a 4-2-3-1. Reus, Mueller and Goetze in particular are best when playing close to goal or as a central striker.
What's more, with Lahm excelling in midfield at Bayern this season the opportunity to transition to a 4-3-3 has never been better. It's a system that suits Germany's personnel much more than the current 4-2-3-1, and it could give them the edge they have lacked in the past.
Low may find it too late to experiment tactically, but Germany's long-term development may just hinge on it.