Germany′s Euro 2016: Close, but not quite convincing | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 08.07.2016
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Germany's Euro 2016: Close, but not quite convincing

To win a major tournament, any team, even the world champions, need pretty much everything to go just right. In France, a few key things went wrong for Germany, and it was enough to deny them a place in Sunday's final.

In retrospect, perhaps it was too much to expect a depleted Germany to advance to the final and perhaps even win Euro 2016. There were too many niggly little problems that head coach Joachim Löw found himself battling against, right from the time he had to cut his 27-man provisional squad down to 23 for UEFA's summer tournament.

It started with Löw's decision to leave Dortmund's Marco Reus back home, because he simply wasn't fit to play in a demanding (and expanded) European Championship.

The captain, Bastian Schweinsteiger, was important enough in terms of experience for Löw to name him to his final squad despite a knee injury that everybody expected to limit his action in France which it did, with Thursday's semifinal defeat marking his first start of the tournament. He replaced Sami Khedira, who himself succumbed to injury in the quarterfinal clash with Italy.

Before the squad was even named Mats Hummels - injured in the last match of the Bundesliga season - was also a doubt. From the second game on, he would go on to play a key role for Germany in the tournament, until the semifinal, when he was forced to sit out after two bookings. Despite a good effort from his deputy, Benedikt Höwedes, the newly signed Bayern Munich defender was missed.

To add salt to Löw's wounds Hummels' central defensive partner Jerome Boateng was also forced to leave the pitch during Thursday's semifinal loss to France.

Irreplaceable Gomez

To lose one key player in a tournament is unfortunate, to lose several is a severe blow. Perhaps the most costly of all the knocks was the tournament-ending injury to striker Mario Gomez in the quarterfinals against Italy. His absence against France saw Thomas Müller valiantly fill in on Thursday but he was unable to break his scoreless run in France. There's nothing to suggest that employing the other possible Gomez-replacement-scheme, playing Mario Götze in a false nine, would have led to a better outcome.

Germany sputtered at times during this tournament, but until they met their demise against France, they always found a way to get the result they needed to advance. Löw's squad worked hard, and at their basecamp in Evian-les-Bains, there seemed to be a good spirit in the team. This helped them overcome Italy, albeit on penalties, to reach the semifinal.

UEFA EURO 2016 - Halbfinale | Frankreich vs. Deutschland - Jerome Boateng

Having struggled with fitness issues throughout, Jerome Boateng was forced to throw in the towel in the second half

However, all the way through Euro 2016, Germany were never quite convincing in the way they sometimes were on the way to their 2014 World Cup win. While their defensive record was the best at this summer's tournament, you almost always had the sense that with a suddenly-impotent attack, were they to go down a goal, they would have had a terrible time pulling one back.

Not enough went right

As much as coach Löw tinkered with his lineup and tactics in order to make things work, usually successfully, you eventually couldn't avoid the impression that due mostly to fitness issues and a lack of striking options, things just weren't going Germany's way, luck was not on their side. Injuries aside, it's not as if all that much went wrong, perhaps it was more that not enough went right.

In the immediate aftermatch of Thursday's defeat, Löw himself suggested he felt bad luck had played a part in his team's demise, noting that Gemany were "unfortunate" to concede a penalty. "We had our chances but didn't score."

During the entire tournament, there was only one fleeting moment when you had the feeling that everything might actually be going Germany's way - when Schweinsteiger came on late against Ukraine and scored a beautiful winner. Apart from that, the fruits of the captain's labors were moderate at best. At worst, his hand ball led to the penalty that would put them behind the eightball against France, and on their way out of Euro 2016.

No major setback

However, it is important to remember that this exit requires nothing like the soul-searching of Euro 2004, when Germany failed to advance from the group stage. Looking towards the World Cup in Russia in 2018, perhaps all that will be needed for success will be for the coach, whether it is Joachim Löw or someone else, to continue to blood new, young talented players like Leroy Sane and Julian Weigl and, ideally, find someone who can score consistently at international level.

In two year's time, that just might make the difference between the semifinals and an appearance in the final - if things start going Germany's way again.

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