Joachim Löw insists the time for experimentation is over as his young team prepares to face Cameroon. The national team coach is expecting the toughest challenge yet against the African champions.
Germany's top players are preparing for their final group game at the Confederations Cup in Russia and, for head coach Joachim Löw, the tournament is now getting serious.
Following a 3-2 win over Australia and a hard-fought 1-1 draw with Chile, Löw knows that a point against African champions Cameroon on Sunday evening will be enough to see the world cup holders progress to the semifinal. But he insisted there is no room for complacency.
"It annoys me a bit that people are only talking about whether we'll be playing [the semifinal] in Sochi or Kazan," he told reporters in Sochi's Olympic Stadium on Saturday morning. "We're not in the semifinal yet and nobody should think it's a foregone conclusion."
'Nothing to lose'
Germany face a physical challenge against Cameroon, who recorded their only point of the tournament so far against Australia
Victory over Cameroon by a higher score than Chile manage against Australia would see Germany top Group B and remain in the southern Black Sea port, whereas second place would mean more travelling and a trip back to Kazan. A 0-2 defeat could see them fly back to Frankfurt. First, they must overcome what Löw considers to be their toughest opponent yet and the time for experimentation is over.
"Cameroon have nothing to lose; they have to win" he said, after the Africans started their tournament with defeat to Chile and a draw against Australia. "This will be the most physically intense and strenuous game so far. Cameroon are fast and have great stamina. They love to play one-on-one and lure the opposition into tackles."
For that reason, Roma's Antonio Rüdiger is set to start in defense, but Löw is otherwise only planning minor changes as the competition enters its decisive phase.
"I can't change too much," he said, nevertheless suggesting a maximum of "three, four or five changes - we have to get the balance right. Perhaps it's time for [captain] Julian Draxler to have a break, or [left-back] Jonas Hector." Should the Cologne man drop to the bench, he could be replaced by the comparatively inexperienced Hertha Berlin full-back Marvin Plattenhardt.
Emre Can is the only injury worry for Germany after the Liverpool midfielder caught his studs in the turf in training, and his absence could present an opportunity for Hoffenheim's Kerem Demirbay. Kevin Trapp could return in goal but it's more likely that Löw puts an end to his goalkeeper rotation and installs Marc-André ter Stegen as his number one for the remainder of the tournament.
With Leon Goretzka, Lars Stindl and Sebastian Rudy all on two yellow cards, Germany have three players at risk of suspension for the semifinal. Single yellow cards are written off after the group stage.
Dinner by the sea
Löw might be keen to avoid premature talk of the semifinal but Schalke midfielder Goretzka sees a special incentive to win and top the group.
"We want to avoid another day's travel and have more of a break," he reasoned. "After all, eating here with a view of the sea isn't the worst thing in the world!"
Germany will have enough on their plate against Cameroon.