Germany were convincing winners against Russia, winning 3-0 in Leipzig. Leroy Sane, Kai Havertz and Serge Gnabry all impressed as Joachim Löw's trust in his rising stars paid off, writes DW's Michael Da Silva.
If only Joachim Löw had figured this out before the World Cup. This may only have been a friendly against an insipid Russia side, but it may also have been the night the penny finally dropped for the Germany coach.
Löw is still under pressure to prove he is the right man to return Germany back to the top of the world game following a disastrous World Cup campaign, but he finally heeded the call for youth and energy in his starting eleven.
His selection of Leroy Sane, Kai Havertz and Serge Gnabry behind lone striker Timo Werner proved effective from the off, with Russia unable to handle Germany's pace when they poured forward, and their ability to turn defense into attack in a brief moment. That speed in attack was the key; Gnabry's power, Havertz's finesse and Sane's trickery left Russia tied up in knots as early as the eighth minute.
Gnabry's pass found Sane, and the Manchester City man's crisp finish was the kind of goal we're used to seeing the 22-year-old score in the Premier League, except this was his first ever goal in a Germany shirt, coming at the 16th time of asking. The second and third goals also came from players who should be regular starters under Löw. Niklas Süle, starting alongside Matthias Ginter and Antonio Rüdiger in a robust back three, scored from close range and Gnabry lashed in a ferocious third after a beautifully weighted pass by Havertz.
This should tell Löw everything he needs to know about how he should be shaping this Germany team for the future. Löw claimed himself before the visit of Russia that the evolution of his team wouldn't happen overnight and that all successful teams have a blend of youth and experience. That is certainly true — even if the need to shift from the old generation to the new was clear before Löw realized it .
Decisions ahead of Netherlands clash
If Marco Reus recovers from a bruised foot there is a legitimate claim that the in-form Dortmund captain should return to the starting line-up ahead of Werner for Monday's game against the Netherlands in Gelsenkirchen. Werner was just not quite able to affect the game in the same way his three teammates behind him did — even on home turf in Leipzig — and has struggled to impress in the white of Germany for some time.
But one player who Löw may be tempted to call back is Thomas Müller, who sat this game out. Müller, for all his fine contributions in a Germany shirt over the years, lacks the pace and directness that saw Germany thrive against Russia. While it's difficult to change a game from the bench, Müller didn't do anything in the final 20 minutes that matched the contributions of the man he replaced, his Bayern Munich teammate Gnabry.
There is also the question of whether Mats Hummels, whose shortcomings were brutally exposed by Borussia Dortmund in the recent Klassiker, should return. But even without having been fully tested, Rüdiger and Ginter did little to weaken their case to start in Gelsenkirchen.
The Netherlands will pose a far greater challenge to Germany when they meet on Monday in the Nations League, but with Toni Kroos and Ilkay Gündogan ready to bolster Germany's midfield, there is a chance for Löw to field a side that offers that combination of young and old that he's looking for. But the Sane-Havertz-Gnabry axis is the one Löw needs to build on, and he must continue looking to the future rather than the past.