Russia 2018: Germany primed for Saudi Arabia test before title defense begins | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 07.06.2018
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Russia 2018: Germany primed for Saudi Arabia test before title defense begins

Joachim Löw's side have left their Italian training base ahead of Friday evening's friendly clash with Saudi Arabia. The game will be Die Mannschaft's final test before traveling to Moscow on Monday for the World Cup.

Arrivederci then, South Tyrol. It’s been a pleasure. Germany's two-week training camp in the sun-kissed hills of northern Italy concluded on Thursday evening as Joachim Löw’s side packed up and headed to Leverkusen for a final World Cup warm-up match.

The squad has been trimmed, tactical ideas tweaked, and Löw will be confident his players are prepared for the physical and psychological demands of World Cup football. It was a training camp planned in microscopic detail, located in the heart of Eppan’s world famous wine region.

Trips to the vineyard are rarely without their hiccups, however, and Germany's has been no different. No amount of forward-planning will have prepared Die Mannschaft for a shock 2-1 loss to old rivals Austria in their penultimate pre-tournament fixture. The pitch may have been sodden, the game might have kicked off late, but Löw will know that World Cups are all about rolling with the punches and Germany emphatically failed to do so.

Löw’s decision, arriving midway through the training camp, to omit Leroy Sané from his final 23-man squad has also come under fire. The subsequent loss to Austria highlighted a lack of pace and precision in wide areas and it's fair to assume full-backs from all of Germany’s Group F opponents breathed a sigh of relief on hearing the news.

Attention now turns to the final warm-up match. Their opponents, Saudi Arabia, are unlikely to pose too much of a threat but Löw will be disappointed to be without playmaker Mesut Özil, who'll sit out with a bruised knee.

Fußball WM Qualifikation Deutschland - Norwegen (picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Schrader)

Mesut Özil will miss Germany's friendly against Saudi Arabia through injury

"It's nothing dramatic, we just don't want to take any risks," team general manager Oliver Bierhoff told reporters at Wednesday's prematch press conference. "I assume he will be okay for the World Cup."

Löw will hope assumption quickly turns into certainty. Özil is Germany’s only out and out No.10 and his coach would prefer to have his main cast available for the final dress rehearsal before heading to Moscow. It's likely either Julian Draxler or Thomas Müller will be required to fill in behind Timo Werner, resulting in further changes in the wide areas.

One the plus side, Bayern Munich star central defender Jerome Boateng could play his first game since suffering a groin injury in April.

"We assume that Jerome is now 100 percent fit", said Bierhoff, but stressed that a final decision has not yet been taken on his participation on Thursday night. Elsewhere, whether Löw decides to stick with his recuperating goalkeeper Manuel Neuer or recall the fully fit Marc Andre ter Stegen will be a point of discussion.

A fourth consecutive winless warm-up fixture would hardly constitute a disaster but Löw will hope his side can get back to winning ways before his side meet up at Frankfurt airport on Monday.

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