Coach Joachim Löw is facing some tricky personnel choices ahead of Germany’s semifinal with France. After having a full squad against Italy, Löw will have to do without key players like Mats Hummels and Sami Khedira.
Löw was his usual calm self as he strode into the news conference at the DFB’s (German FA) media center in Evian on Monday, but perhaps not surprisingly the wheels appeared to be turning a little more rapidly than usual under his dark mop of hair.
Addressing reporters less than 48 hours after Germany’s thrilling 6-5 penalty shootout victory that took them past Italy to the semifinals, Löw began with the bad news.
“As you already know Mario Gomez’s tournament is over, he wouldn’t be able to play in the final, should we get there,” he said.
“Sami Khedira won’t play for us on Thursday. We will do everything for him to be available for a potential final,” he adding, before confirming that captain Bastian Schweinsteiger, who came on for Khedira after 15 minutes on Saturday, had suffered a knock to his troublesome right knee in the course of the more than 100 minutes that followed.
The condition of the knee has worsened since the game and the availablilty of Schweinsteiger for Thursday or beyond is a big question mark.
100 percent fitness required
“One thing is clear. I will definitely not let anyone play who is not 100 percent fit. I hope and wish that Bastian can make it,” he stressed.
One player that Löw does have clarity about is central defender Mats Hummels, who picked up a second yellow card against Italy and is suspended for the semifinal.
“I will have to bring in new names. There will be changes in the lineup,” Löw concluded in his opening statement, before facing reporters’ questions.
With Khedira and possibly Schweinsteiger out for the semifinal, one reporter suggested that it might be time for the coach to give defensive midfielder Emre Can his first action at Euro 2016.
“He is a player who can be used in a lot of different positions. In training, he has been very convincing,” Löw said.
“Physically he is very strong and skilled. I think that a player like Can would do our game a lot of good,” the coach added, without going as far as saying he would start the Liverpool player. It seemed clear that Löw would prefer to go with Schweinsteiger if possible, but another alternative may be Dortmund youngster Julian Weigl.
“Julian is also a very good player, he has a different approach and is also extremely strong on the ball,” Löw said.
Mustafi or Höwedes?
The question as to who should partner Jerome Boateng in the absence of Hummels appears to be more clear cut. The first option is Shkodran Mustafi, who scored Germany’s first goal of the tournament against Ukraine, but appeared a bit wobbly in his defensive role. The other is right back Benedikt Höwedes, who has proved in the past that he is more than capable of doing a job in a more central role.
Getting this decision right could be key to getting a result against France, whose attack, as Löw put it, is “more variable and unpredictable” than Italy’s
Return to a false 9?
Compensating for the loss of Gomez may actually be Löw’s biggest challenge, since Germany don’t have a player who he can easily plug into his role as a lone out-and-out striker.
Gomez forced his way into the team after Mario Götze, in the false nine role, simply wasn’t much of a threat. Löw has said he was happy with Götze’s work, but there was little concrete to show for it.
The coach conceded that playing the uncharacteristically unproductive Thomas Müller as a central striker was another possibility. As usual though, it seems clear that the national team coach is not about to reveal his hand until shortly before kick off.