The promotion of youth at the expense of experience has dominated the conversation around the German national team. But Toni Kroos has survived, and remains "indispensable" to Joachim Löw as Germany face the Netherlands.
Germany's 23-man squad for Sunday's Euro 2020 qualifying opener against traditional rivals the Netherlands contains just three of the names submitted to FIFA ahead of their triumphant World Cup 2014 campaign.
Such a situation would have been close to unthinkable as recently as a year ago. But Joachim Löw's decision to publicly axe Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng and Thomas Müller and cast aside several more of his previously faithful footsoliders has given his side a pacier and more vibrant look, without quite producing the results a footballing nation like Germany expects.
In his press conference on Saturday, Löw announced that two of those three World Cup winners would begin in Amsterdam, with only Matthias Ginter's participation uncertain: "I can confirm that Manuel Neuer and Toni Kross will both start the game," said the long-serving national team coach, who also confirmed the fitness of Serge Gnabry and Manuel Neuer.
Keeping the faith
Löw, who has publicly backed Neuer despite the claims of Mar-Andre ter Stegen and a difficult season, labelled Kroos as "indispensable" to his side. The Real Madrid midfielder has endured a tough time in Spain this term, with local media suggesting that, at the age of 29, the former Bayern Munich man's star is on the wane.
Since making his international debut in 2010, Kroos has been at the heart of the resurgence of Germany as an international force; his metronomic passing, intelligence and anticipation making him the man Löw and his side expect to dictate the tempo.
Never the quickest, there have been times where Kroos has looked as cumbersome as those omitted by Löw but, thanks partly to his stunning late freekick against Sweden, he came out of the World Cup 2018 debacle with slightly more credit than most. Which, admittedly, isn't saying much.
Budding midfield partnership
But with the backing of the only international boss he's ever played for Kroos, 29, is looking forward to continuing to develop a partnership with Joshua Kimmich, who Löw has moved from right back in to central midfield since Russia.
"The last few games have shown that we work well together," said Kroos. "We complement each other - it's certainly an option long-term."
That the midfielder then went on to talk of Germany's "good performances recently" despite Die Mannschaft's failure to win any of their four competetive games is evidence of the drop in expectations post-Russia and of an acceptance that a new team needs time to find its feet. Unlike most of the players with whom he forged his international reputation, Kroos will be there to help them along.