Another six-goal thriller brought an entertaining but unsatisfying end to the international week for Joachim Löw's side. Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Serge Gnabry made up for some dodgy defending, but problems persist.
Germany 3-3 Switzerland
(Werner 28', Havertz 55', Gnabry 60' - Gavranovic 5' 57', Freuler 27')
For the second time in a week, Germany drew 3-3 in Cologne as their inability to put together a solid 90 minutes came back to haunt them.
After heavy criticism of his persistence with the back three and the lack of progress this Germany team is making, it was no surprise that Löw returned to a classic 4-2-3-1 formation. With more stability at the back and his three midfielders on the field in more natural roles, this was to be Löw's swaggering riposte to midweek criticism, proof that Germany could swap seamlessly between formations.
Unfortunately, over the course of the previous 90 minutes and indeed the past week, Germany hadn't looked capable of that at all.
They did enjoy a bit more stability defensively against Switzerland, but struggled at the back in transition. The first Swiss goal came from non-existent marking from a corner, the second from a loss of possession by Toni Kroos, making his 100th appearance for the national team. Still, Switzerland capitalized brilliantly with a sweeping move that, had Germany executed it, would have had commentators waxing lyrical about the team's fluidity.
If only. Instead, Germany looked twitchy all night. And for Switzerland's third, they looked slow; a fraction too late to spring the offside trap and then too late clearing the ball. It was a scene that epitomized Germany's night — Löw's side were just off the pace when it mattered.
As was the case in the last two games, Germany were guilty of slowing the play down when they needed to speed it up. Germany had more purpose with the ball but for long spells lacked precision. Serge Gnabry's flick from Timo Werner's cross was a rare moment of flair, as Germany drew level for the third time.
Earlier, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz had taken matters into their own hands, scoring impressive solo goals that came when Germany quickly drove towards goal having won the ball back. It was a reminder of how these players play at club level, and perhaps also the greatest lesson from this extended international break.
Namely, that Germany have looked best when they are reactive rather than when they have been trying to dictate the play. They again had the lion's share of possession against Switzerland but didn't look like they knew what to do with it. Winning the ball back after an error or a strong tackle in the final third following a mini press though, and they looked a different side.
Towards the end of a wild game, made all the more unusual in an empty RheinEnergieStadion, a result of rising coronavirus rates in Cologne, Löw cut an agitated figure on the sidelines. Firstly as Germany failed to take advantage of a flurry of Swiss errors, then as his side began to wobble towards the final whistle.
The specters of late goals against Spain and Turkey loomed large, but Germany survived.
After coming from behind three times, "moral" and "mentaltity" were words used by goalscorer Havertz, head coach Löw and television pundit Bastian Schweinsteiger to describe the positives. But for all the changes and experiments, something is still not quite right about this Germany team.
"Just like against Ukraine, we gave the ball away too easily," analyzed Schweinsteiger from the sidelines. "But Switzerland have more quality and were able to punish us. Yes, we were brighter going forward, but the defensive shape is the biggest problem."
While the players themselves are not free of criticism - Antonio Rüdiger's positioning was particularly questionable against Switzerland - much of the past week suggests that a lot of what is wrong starts with Löw.
Because, for all of the details, it is ultimately his inability to build a new Germany team that has this team where they are today. Serious questions must be asked of a team that has Kimmich and Leon Goretzka looking like totally different players than at club level, and whose playing style remains unclear.
Germany were never going to be contenders at the upcoming Euros. This is a young team, still finding its feet, but the tournament was still there to develop this new team to put themselves in a position to win the Euros at home in 2024, and maybe challenge for another World Cup two years later.
"We wanted to take risks tonight in order to have more power going forward," commented Löw. "But we did make bad mistakes in defense, we have to admit that and correct it. A few mistakes are sometimes part of the process,"
It was a curiously casually conclusion from a manager who is now 27 months into his latest rebuild. An error culture is fine and in many ways to be encouraged, but it's starting to become less of a culture and more of a problem.
+++ Relive the action as it happened below: +++
FULL-TIME: Germany 3-3 Switzerland
(Werner 28', Havertz 55', Gnabry 60' - Gavranovic 5' 57', Freuler 27')
90+3' RED CARD - Schär (Switzerland)
89' Draxler sends Elvedi the wrong way with a textbook step-over on the left hand side of the penalty area but when he cuts the ball back, there's no German shirt to meet it.
85' Seferovic fires over for Switzerland.
81' An end-to-end attack from Germany almost puts them ahead. It begins when Goretzka wins the ball brilliantly on the edge of his own box and immediately launches the counterattack, via Gnabry on the right, who finds the advancing Draxler but the PSG man fires into the side-netting. Nice move.
77' Double substitution for Germany:
Kai Havertz is replaced by Julian Draxler
Matthias Ginter is replaced by Emre Can
76' Switzerland look like they could be in big trouble when Wolfsburg's Admir Mehmedi, just on as a sub, gives away possession to Havertz, who is then held back by Schär but the referee plays advantage and Werner shoots straight at the goalkeeper.
73' Germany break with Werner and the attack looks promising ... but Werner loses possession on the left wing.
71' Serge Gnabry sends a long-range effort straight down Yann Sommer's throat.
70' ... but the Real Madrid one curls it over on his 100th international appearance.
69' Kroos will have another chance after Kimmich is hacked down on the edge of the box ...
63' Toni Kroos' free-kick fails to clear the wall.
60' GOAL! Germany 3-3 Switzerland (Gnabry)
What a game! Toni Kroos wins possession and feeds Timo Werner on the right hand side of the Swiss box. Werner crosses low and Serge Gnabry flicks the ball past Sommer with his heel. Clever finish, all square again!
57' GOAL! Germany 2-3 Switzerland (Gavranovic)
Germany fall behind again straight away, and once again the defense doesn't look brilliant. First, Seferovic is played through but Neuer saves when one-on-one. But Germany don't clear and Gavranovic follows up smash the ball into the roof of the net and restore Switzerland's lead.
Bastian Schweinsteiger to broadcaster ARD: "The 2-2 was hugely important but the fault for the third Swiss goal lies with Antonio Rüdiger who gets dragged out of position. The center of the defense is far too open, we need to close that gap."
55' GOAL! Germany 2-2 Switzerland (Havertz)
€100 million and that's why! Kai Havertz is alert to intercept a wayward Swiss pass and immediately drives at the defense and into the box before finishing right-footed across Sommer into the bottom corner.
49' Post! Kai Havertz dances into the box and gets a shot away which hits the post. Clever play from the 21-year-old.
48' At the other end, Werner snaps a shot over.
47' Switzerland go straight on the attack and Zuber tests Neuer with a stinging shot from distance.
Kick-off! We're back underway in the second half. No changes on either side.
Two German errors, two Swiss chances, two Swiss goals: a nightmare start for Joachim Löw's team in Cologne. Fortunately, Timo Werner was on hand to halve the deficit right away, and Germany have largely dominated proceedings since. With the talent on display in midfield and up front, the chances will surely come, but Switzerland will be waiting to pounce on any more slip-ups at the back.
Bastian Schweinsteiger to broadcaster ARD: "A very interesting game against a very good team. Switzerland are defending well, timing their attacks well and exploiting our mistakes."
Germany's defense may have been at fault for the goals, but DW's Jonathan Harding, reporting from Cologne, believes the bigger issue is up front:
44' Side netting! Kroos finds a yard of space outside the box and gets a good shot away, but just wide.
42' Kroos with his next searching throughball, this time into Goretzka, but Sommer beats the Bayern midfielder to the ball.
38' Serge Gnabry tries to dribble his way into the Swiss box but is frustrated. Germany still with the lion's share of possession and trying to move the ball quickly.
36' Moments later, Gosens goes into the book for a late challenge.
35' Close! Gosens' forward pass initially goes astray but the Atalanta man continues his run and regains possession, shooting first time with the outside of his left foot, and Sommer has to stretch to save.
28' GOAL! Germany 1-2 Switzerland (Werner)
Germany respond immediately! Or rather, Timo Werner responds immediately. The Chelsea striker drives at the Swiss defense and, spotting that Gnabry is offside, goes it alone in the box and screws a left-footed shot back across goal and into the bottom corner. What an important goal.
27' GOAL! Germany 0-2 Switzerland (Freuler)
This time, Kroos' pass is intercepted by Xhaka and Switzerland break quickly. With Rüdiger back-peddling and out of position, Freuler has time and space to chip the ball cheekily over Neuer and into the net.
25' Toni Kroos threads a vertical pass through the eye of a needle to Werner but the former Stuttgart man can't get a proper shot away.
24' A spell of Swiss possession ends with Gavranovic laying the ball off to Seferovic, who could drive further forward but instead opts to shoot from distance - and it goes over. But once again, there was a gap between Ginter and Rüdiger which could have been exploited.
22' Kimmich slices an effort wide from distance.
20' Intricate play from Germany on the edge of the Swiss box sees Goretzka stab through to Werner, who is thwarted by a last-ditch sliding tackle. Germany now moving the ball quickly around the Switzerland half and intensifying the pressure.
15' Another huge chance for Switzerland! This time, Manuel Neuer is as fault with a sloppy pass which is intercepted by Seferovic. But the Bayern Munich man makes amends with a save from Gavranovic. Worrying signs at the back for Germany.
14' Germany come forward with pace after Gosens wins possession at left-back. Werner finds Goretzka, Goretzka tries to find Gnabry, but Switzerland clear for a corner, which is also cleared.
10' Former Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger has been vocal in his criticism of Germany this week, and he's providing expert opinion on German television this evening. He tells ARD:
"Switzerland already had one huge chance with Shaqiri, they're making a good impression. But the problem even before the corner was that Germany tried to play their way out from the back. Sometimes, you just have to clear it."
5' GOAL! Germany 0-1 Switzerland
Back three? Back four? You can have a back ten but it makes no difference if you leave space like that! First, Switzerland win a corner after Shaqiri was afforded the freedom of the six-yard-box. The corner is cleared but when it is played back into the area, Gavranovic is unmarked and onside and nods a header over Neuer. Terrible defending!
3' A promising passing move from Germany ends in Goretzka firing over from distance.
1' Germany win an early corner which is taken short and then cleared at the near post.
After a false start with Swiss players entering the center circle too early, Germany get us underway in Cologne.
Apart from Silvan Widmer, who scored against Germany in Basel last month, and midfielder Remo Freuler, every other member of the Swiss team has played in the Bundesliga. Currently, Borussia Mönchengladbach duo Yann Sommer and Nico Elvedi are active in Germany's top flight, as is Eintracht Frankfurt's Steven Zuber.
300 fans were in the stadium for Germany's 3-3 draw with Turkey last week, but with the coronavirus incidence in the city of Cologne now at 66, and therefore way above the German "risk" level of 50, there are no fans at all at the RheinEnergieStadion tonight.
One important person has made it though, and that's DW's Jonathan Harding, hopefully keeping warm.
Toni Kroos makes his 100th appearance for Germany tonight. The Real Madrid midfielder and 2014 World Cup winneris only the 16th player to reach the milestone for either West or East Germany, and draws level with Thomas Müller.
If Kroos represents the outgoing German generation, the man next to him in midfield tonight is very much one for the present and future: Joshua Kimmich makes his 50th appearance.
After criticism from fans, media and former players of his three-at-the-back system, Joachim Löw reverts to a more familiar 4-3-3.
In front of that back four is arguably Germany's strongest midfield and attack.
Germany XI: Neuer - Klostermann, Ginter, Rüdiger, Gosens - Kimmich, Goretzka, Kroos - Werner, Havertz, Gnabry
Germany are preparing for their third game in seven days and their second Nations League fixture in four days as they welcome Switzerland to Cologne.
The two sides drew 1-1 in Basel last month in the second of what would turn out to be three consecutive draws for Joachim Löw's team, who had to wait until Saturday night in Kiev to register their first ever Nations League win.
Cause for celebration and a degree of relaxation for the Bundestrainer? Not at all. After the 2-1 win over Ukraine, Löw responded to criticism of his team by launching into a four-minute monologue which he concluded by saying that he was able to "rise above the criticism." Ok, Jogi.
One of the main points of discussion is Löw's current preference for a back three, which has drawn criticism from World Cup winners Lothar Matthäus and Bastian Schweinsteiger, as well as DW's Jonathan Harding:
Löw's chopping and changing of his personnel (partly due to the busy coronavirus calendar, admittedly) and Germany's habit of conceding equalizers (five altogether against Spain, Switzerland and Turkey) have also caused consternation.
But the World Cup winning coach insists that he wants to remain flexible. "I want us to be prepared for everything at Euro 2021," he said on Monday.
As for the criticism from Matthäus and Schweinsteiger? "I understand Basti's analysis. There are different opinions in football. If everyone was of the same opinion, it would be boring."
Germany (3-4-3): Neuer - Ginter, Süle, Rüdiger - Klostermann, Kimmich, Kroos, Halstenberg - Goretzka, Gnabry, Werner
Switzerland (5-3-2): Sommer - Widmer, Elvedi, Schär, Rodriguez, Benito - Sow, Xhaka, Freuler - Shaqiri, Seferovic