Germany’s World Cup win of 2014 proved it is foolish to read too much in to pre-tournament friendlies. But Saturday’s 2-0 win over Hungary won’t have provided solutions to Joachim Löw’s key concerns, writes Matt Pearson.
Before their triumph in Brazil, Löw’s charges labored to draws with Poland and Cameroon before hammering Armenia 6-1, but were able to step up in the first group game of the tournament, hammering Portugal 4-0 in Salvador.
Following their 3-1 loss to Slovakia last week, Germany improved against Hungary, especially going forward where some of the interplay between the Mario Götze, Thomas Müller, Toni Kroos and Julian Draxler will have worried their tournament opponents. But the questions raised by many observers upon announcement of the tournament squad remain.
Who is best at the back?
As in 2014, it looks like Löw will trust Benedikt Höwedes with one of his full-back positions – this time right-back rather than left-back. The Schalke skipper is clearly a player the German boss trusts (he played every minute in 2014) and, as a natural center back, his defensive qualities are clear.
However, there were occasions, particularly in the first half, when Höwedes looked uncomfortable in advanced positions – he showed a noticeable lack of composure just before the break when presented with an opportunity to double Germany’s lead when he shot wildly first time rather than taking a touch. But there’s a lack of alternatives. Neither Emre Can nor Joshua Kimmich – the squad’s other options on the right side of defense are natural full backs.
On the other side, Jonas Hector impressed, creating the opening goal for the hosts with an overlapping run, but Antonio Rüdiger may not have nailed down his starting place for Germany’s first match against Ukraine on June 12.
The spot alongside Jerome Boateng, who was close to his imperious best against Hungary, is up for grabs for at least the Ukraine game and Poland fixture four days later after Mats Hummels’ injury.
Rüdiger was preferred to Shkodran Mustafi but had a few shaky moments against an attack led by Adam Szalai, who has just 11 goals in his last three Bundesliga seasons. The Roma man, who also missed a free header from close range, looked relatively comfortable with the ball but was nearly caught out a couple of times – once when a through ball dissected him and Boateng in the 27th minute and then shortly after Germany’s second goal when a long ball saw him on the wrong side of his man. In both instances the Hungarians were wasteful, better sides may not be so generous.
Could Gomez be more than a plan B?
When Boateng stepped forward to float a cross to the back post, substitute Mario Gomez had the chance to demonstrate what he brings to the team. He didn't disappoint. Gomez's powerful header was palmed out by Gabor Kiraly in the Hungary goal before Müller buried the rebound.
But is there a case for the Besiktas man to start at the Euros? There could well be. While Germany’s attacking players combined fluently at times, particularly in the opening minutes, the 1.89m striker offered his more skillful teammates a focal point that offers a different dimension to the side’s play. It also freed Götze up to play facing goal and not with his back towards it. Either way, this might not be such a bad problem to have.