Joachim Loew is standing by his under-fire German stars insisting they haven’t become a bad team overnight, writes Neil Moxley in Sochi.
On the eve of a World Cup Group F game with Sweden that could see the current world champions dumped from the tournament, the long-serving boss says his faith remains strong.
Germany were buried under an avalanche of criticism following their shock opening 1-0 defeat to Mexico.
The backlash has been felt all week but Loew was on the front foot, admitting that while the criticism was expected, it may have also been premature.
Asked if he was losing confidence in his main players, the head coach responded: ‘No, why should that be the case? We are all subject to criticism, but my deep trust in players who have been playing well for three or four years will not be shaken by a single match.
“Okay, we had this hiccup against Mexico but we have been successful during that time. We shouldn’t be doubting our talent.
“As title-holders and Confederation Cup winners, the situation we face is a difficult one. Everyone is highly-motivated to beat us. It’s very difficult to keep up the motivation and hunger – not many teams have defended their title.
“Spain weren’t able to in 2014. It’s clearly not easy.”
There has been plenty of speculation that Arsenal star Mesut Ozil will be axed.
Much of the flak has been directed at him, but with Mats Hummels sidelined with a neck problem, it is more likely that Julian Draxler will make way for Marco Reus instead.
Loew, who has been in charge since 2006, suggested that he may need more than brawn to prise open the Sweden defence, giving Ozil a reprieve.
He said: “Everyone wanted to join in going forward against Mexico.
“All of them were criticised for it. That’s normal. I don’t need to talk about indviduals. However, I’ve got my own opinion on Mesut and everyone knows I hold him in high esteem.
“We will need people who can go deep into the opposition’s box. The whole forward line didn’t do that against Mexico.
“We cannot believe that by pinging the ball into the box we will score. Sweden will feel safe if that happens. They are passionate, committed, highly-organised. There’s very little space. They have conceded 0.5 goals per match. They are used to conceding few and that means we have to create.
“We must deliver. And if we do win, we’re right back in the race.”
Three Sweden players — Filip Helander, Marcus Rohden and Leeds’ Pontus Jansson — have been ill with by a stomach bug.
Taking no chances, the Swedes quarantined them 200 miles up the Black Sea coast at their base in Gelendzhik.
World Cup 2018
Coach Janne Andersson said: “Last night, three of our players complained of a stomach upset. Since we cannot rule out that it might be contagious, we have decided, for security reasons, to leave them at our hotel. It’s too early to say if all 23 players will be available.”
Despite the setback, Andersson was in confident mood.
“We’ve built experience with this squad. With these players. Not least during the group game away in France and the play-off victory against Italy," he said. Football is based on experience on and off the pitch. There’s no need for us to feel at a disadvantage.”
Captain Andreas Grandqvist added: ‘Many of the German side have made great progress in the World Cup and Champions League – but we have put together excellent results against teams ranked well above us.
“We’re familiar with what they bring. We’ll have to see what happens. We are prepared.
“It’s quite amazing. It’s the second match. They were big favourites. I don’t think people thought we would be in a position to knock them out.”
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