5 Things We Learned from Germany's 2-2 Draw Against Cameroon
Germany ended their second of three friendlies in preparation for the World Cup with a 2-2 draw against Cameroon in Monchengladbach.
Coach Joachim Low used the match to further test the team's fitness and to make his final decision on the three players he will cut before submitting his final 23-player roster to FIFA by tomorrow.
Low was without two key players, Manuel Neuer and Philipp Lahm, who flew to Munich to undergo individual evaluations and training, and had to start with the still-recovering Sami Khedira and Toni Kroos in midfield.
In the end, it was not the most inspiring performance from the team. Thomas Muller and substitute Andre Schurrle got on the scoresheet after going down a goal before the West African side equalized.
Although this was not Germany at their best, the match was telling of Low's thought process and some of the things we can expect to see in Brazil.
Erik Durm Should Go to Brazil
Of all the 22 players that started this game, Erik Durm should have been the most nervous. After all, this was his international debut, and he just came off his first full professional season.
But you couldn't sense his inexperience if you tried. Durm had a resilient, reliable and mature display. Playing a bit more conservatively than he does at Dortmund, he kept things simple and didn't give the ball away.
With Marcel Schmelzer still recovering, Philipp Lahm most likely used in midfield and no other real option available, Durm's inclusion is also a logical decision.
His inexperience was a worry since his nomination, but in Durm, the team has a confident and motivated young player who will only get better with time and showed absolutely no signs of being phased by the occasion.
Central Midfield Remains a Big Worry
Only a year ago, this was arguably Germany's strongest position. With Sami Khedira, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos, the Bender brothers and Ilkay Gundogan, Germany had a plethora of reliable options in the middle of the field.
Fast forward 12 months and only one of those six players is currently 100 percent fit. Khedira and Schweinsteiger are still trying to reach fitness, the Bender brothers and Gundogan are out with injury and Germany is seemingly out of options in the most important area of the field.
Low will likely have to rely on newcomer Christoph Kramer, who just joined the team and also played his first full season in the top flight this year.
Against Cameroon, it was clear that Khedira was still struggling with his knee injury while Kroos was often either outnumbered or outmuscled. Germany lacked a physical presence and a drive through the middle that left the attack isolated and the team vulnerable defensively.
A lot of Germany's success this summer will depend on both the fitness of Khedira and Schweinsteiger as well as Low's ability to find suitable alternatives in time.
Muller Can Be Germany's Klose Alternative Up Front
Although Mario Gotze started up front and is most likely the preferred alternative to Miroslav Klose up front, he was unable to have much of an impact against Cameroon.
The Bayern Munich attacker was involved in a lot of Germany's combination play outside the box, but never really got himself in good positions in the box.
That was also largely a result of Germany's lack of a system around a "False 9" alternative like Gotze. But that deficiency and the scarcity of time to properly address it may necessitate another solution, namely the lively unpredictable Thomas Muller up front.
When Gotze came off and Muller went up front Germany immediately looked more threatening. Muller also latched onto Jerome Boateng's cross out of nowhere to get the equalizer. His movement is so erratic that it may just be Germany's best alternative to a proper striker.
Muller's instincts in front of goal are probably the sharpest in the squad next to Klose, and he is comfortable both holding the ball up and participating in the build-up.
With Philipp Lahm still out injured, Jerome Boateng recently preferred in central defense and no other viable option, most expected Kevin Grosskreutz to start at right-back against Cameroon.
The fact that he was left on the bench and Boateng was preferred to him could be very telling. Was this punishment for Grosskreutz's recent indiscretion? Or are Boateng's defensive instincts simply preferred to better protect the back line?
Either way, Germany struggled to get their full-backs involved in the attack against Cameroon. Boateng did assist Muller's goal, but other than that, it was mostly a dulled performance from what should really be Germany's primary wide outlets.
With the World Cup right around the corner, the uncertainty over the right-back spot still looms large over the squad. Will Low use the more conservative Boateng or Benedikt Howedes there or go with the more attack-minded Grosskreutz?
Key Players Still Seeking Match Fitness
Germany historically do not do too well in friendlies. That made the result and performance against Cameroon not all that surprising.
But it was clear that some players were still lacking fitness. Low said after the match that the team was still lacking sharpness and made some unnecessary errors.
One of those was Mesut Ozil, who didn't have his best game. Low said that the Arsenal playmaker still needs two weeks to get to his best.
Khedira, too, was still a step behind the play at times and cautiously avoiding injuring his knee further. Neuer, Lahm, Schmelzer, Schweinsteiger and Klose, meanwhile, are all undergoing individual training to recover in time.
The question is whether all the injuries have a collective effect of dulling the team's game. So many changes in a short period can disrupt existing chemistry and necessitate a longer period of adjustment, time Germany simply don't have now.
Germany have traditionally been able to adjust to key players missing, but never at this rate, and never with a team this young and inexperienced.
Brazil will be a true test of the team's character and Low's abilities as a manager.