5 Questions for Joachim Low Ahead of Germany's Clash with Ghana

Mark LovellFeatured ColumnistJune 19, 2014

5 Questions for Joachim Low Ahead of Germany's Clash with Ghana

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    You slap my back and I'll slap yours...
    You slap my back and I'll slap yours...Associated Press

    Following the pulverising of Portugal in their 100th World Cup game, Joachim Low's German side returns to action on Saturday: Group G means Germany versus Ghana!

    The Mannschaft has lofty ambitions for the weeks ahead. Low and his charges will be looking to seal qualification to the last 16 with a victory over their African opponents.

    Click "Begin Slideshow" for a look at five points for the coach to ponder as Germany aim to gobble up Ghana’s Black Stars.

Great Expectations

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    One might be forgiven for thinking that the Germans already have one foot in the final, judging by the unadulterated joy of thousands who took to the streets all across the football-mad country on Monday after the final whistle.

    Towns and cities all across Germany were a frenzy of “autocorsos” awash with raucous fans celebrating the 4-0 win over Portugal.

    And all this after just 90 minutes of action.

    Even the German chancellor Angela Merkel was on hand to bask in the spoils of victory.

    The Chancellor and me after the victory..... #selfie #dfb #poldi #aha #merkel #brazil #worldcup #moments pic.twitter.com/5jkTb2QjUI

    — Lukas-Podolski.com (@Podolski10) June 16, 2014

    These are not uncharted territories for Low and his charges.

    Germany has arguably flattered to deceive at their past three tournaments, failing to seal any major trophies under Low—despite numerous memorable performances, many in a similarly fluid manner to Monday’s mauling of Portugal.

    For the 54-year-old coach (rather like Dutch coach Louis van Gaal after Holland’s 5-1 savaging of Spain) the question is how to best manage lofty expectations and how to guard against overconfidence in his ranks.

    Despite how dominant the Germans looked on Monday, Low would be wise to have one eye on games gone by—even in three famous World Cup winning campaigns—(1954, 1994 and 1990) Germany has never won every game at a tournament.

    History reveals to Low that there is a German blip on the way…

History Lesson

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    World Champions 1954, 1974, 1990.
    World Champions 1954, 1974, 1990.Associated Press

    The German coach can go back to the most recent World Cup in South Africa for the clearest warning sign of the dangers of getting too carried away.

    Germany began the 2010 tournament with a similar success in their opening clash (4-0 vs. the Socceroos in Durban), before slipping to a sloppy 1-0 defeat against underdogs Serbia just five days later.

    Even in the first-ever World Cup success of 1954, West Germany lost to Hungary in the group stages before gaining revenge over the famous Magyars in the final in the game dubbed “The Miracle of Bern.”

    In 1974, the West lost against their Teutonic brethren from the East in Hamburg on the way to the final before having the last laugh against Holland in the final in Munich.

    And in their most recent success in Italia '90, West Germany drew against Colombia in the group stages and had to survive a nerve-wracking penalty shootout against England in the semi-final.

    However, Low and his men will be buoyed by Spain’s premature exit. Germany came a cropper against the Iberians in both the Euro 2008 final and 2010 World Cup semi-final.

Never Change a Winning Team?

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    "Never change a winning team" goes the old adage coined by England’s World Cup-winning coach Alf Ramsey, via the Ipswich Star.

    However, the injury to Mats Hummels may force Low to shuffle his pack.

    The Borussia Dortmund defender would be a big loss to the German rearguard, having caught the eye with a classy performance—crowned by a bullet header.

    Hummels hobbled off on 73 minutes after landing heavily on his thigh.

    Whilst the injury to Hummels is not as serious as at first feared, Low will not want to take any undue risks this early in the tournament.

    Expect Low to keep his successful 4-3-3 system from the opener but with Shkodran Mustafi slotting into the back four alongside Arsenal’s “BFG” Per Mertesacker.

    It’s quite a rise to prominence too for Sampdoria’s Mustafi, who was only called up to the squad at the last minute due to Marco Reus’s untimely injury.

Ozil on Trial

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    Ozil out after just over an hour.
    Ozil out after just over an hour.Martin Rose/Getty Images

    The disappointment was etched on Mesut Ozil’s face as he was substituted just after the hour mark against Portugal.

    Ozil failed to cap his own solid display off with a goal, missing a golden second-half chance with his side already leading 3-0 at the time against depleted and demoralized opposition.

    The Arsenal man was hooked off for Andre Schurrle of Chelsea and slowly trudged to the touchline almost with a tear in his eye.

    Thomas Mueller quite deservedly won most of the plaudits for his hat-trick, but Low will keep the faith with the sensitive Arsenal star, applying another of those old adages perhaps: “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

Battle of the Boatengs

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    Brotherly Boateng love.
    Brotherly Boateng love.Martin Meissner/Associated Press/Associated Press

    Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng should be fit to face his half-brother Kevin-Prince in the Ghana ranks.

    Jerome of Germany would have to play with a special cast on his right hand (with the explicit permission of the referee) due to a thumb injury incurred in an awkward first-half fall against Ronaldo and the rest.

    The Prince, of course, represented Germany all the way up to Under-21 level, before plumping to play for Ghana, the birthplace of his father.

    Low will ask himself whether to risk another key defender at this early stage of the tournament.



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