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Sports

Netherlands and Germany play to scoreless draw

While it wasn't the most exciting match of all time, after blowing a 4-0 lead in their last game against Sweden, Germany and Joachim Löw can't complain about a 0-0 friendly draw against the Netherlands.

It was the last national team match of the year for Germany, and while coach Joachim Löw can argue that his team played the better game, both sides looked like they had settled in for early hibernation on Wednesday night in Amsterdam.

Germany was without many of its key starters due to injury and illness, including Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos, Sami Khedira, and Miroslav Klose. Instead, Mario Götze started as Löw's striker, backed by Marco Reus, Thomas Müller, and Lewis Holtby in attacking midfield. Lars Bender and Ilkay Gündogan filled out at defensive midfield.

The result was a young side that showed flashes of their immense talent, but were unable to put together many serious challenges to the Dutch defense.

"This was a positive game for me," Löw said after the match. "We had a different team, a lot of the usual players were missing. We stuck to our positions and were disciplined. Our defensive work was good. That's the most important thing given our last few games, including the one against Sweden."

Ninety long, cold minutes

Götze saw more than one goal hope dashed by defender John Heitinga, who seemed to always be exactly in the way of Götze's few shots on goal.

Louis van Gaal's Netherlands side needed a full 30 minutes before a real chance came their way, and it involved one of van Gaal's former charges at Bayern Munich, Arjen Robben. Ibrahim Afellay crossed through to Robben to set up a one-on-one with German keeper Manuel Neuer. Despite beating Neuer, Robben had an awkward angle on the goal and tripped over his own feet as he tried to take the shot.

Right before the end of the half, Gündogan charged on a loose ball that got away from Heitinga and blasted away on the goal from 13 meters. But he, too, was denied by a well-placed Heitinga.

Silver lining for Neustädter

After halftime, it was more of the same, although the Netherlands appeared to wake up a little thanks to some substitutions.

Daryl Janmaat - Heitinga's halftime replacement - was fed a nice heel-pass by captain Dirk Kuijt in the 77th minute and delivered a nice shot, but Manuel Neuer was able to deflect it wide around the post. Moments later, Eljero Elia, playing in his first game for the Oranje in over a year, took a shot from distance on the left side but placed it just over the goal.

The last ten minutes of the game passed without incident, but it was still a big night for Germany's Roman Neustädter: he was subbed in during injury time, making his debut as a German national team player.

Despite the forgettable result, Germany will be glad to move on past their debacle against Sweden last month in a World Cup qualifier, where they gave away a 4-0 lead and had to settle for a disappointing 4-4 draw.

"We got the confidence back that we lost against Sweden," said defender Mats Hummels after Wednesday's game. "You could see that neither side wanted to take any chances. Since we saw that there weren't going to be many goals, no one wanted to make the first mistake. That's how a game like this happens, which is not so spectacular for the fans."

The German national team's next game is on February 6, 2013 against France in Paris.