Football: Germany need to sort out striker issue ahead of Euro 2020, says former captain Matthaus

Lothar Matthaus believes that to succeed, the team's attackers like Thomas Muller (pictured) need to get involved inside the penalty box.
Lothar Matthaus believes that to succeed, the team's attackers like Thomas Muller (pictured) need to get involved inside the penalty box.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Twenty-five years is a long time in sport, but the gap to when they last won the European Championship is not an anniversary for Germany to be jubilant about.

And if Die Mannschaft are to have any chance of ending the drought, their former captain Lothar Matthaus believes that head coach Joachim Low will have to find a solution to the team's striker conundrum.

While Germany had the likes of Jurgen Klinsmann and all-time top scorer Miroslav Klose to call upon in the past, the current national squad is sorely in need of a goal-scoring No. 9 despite the wealth of attacking talent at their disposal.

Perhaps nothing points to this glaring issue as much as the lack of German scorers in the country's top flight. None of the first six players who topped the scoring chart for the Bundesliga 2020-2021 season are German. Instead, the top three positions are occupied by Poland's Robert Lewandowski (41, Bayern Munich), Portugal's Andre Silva (28, Eintracht Frankfurt) and Norway's Erling Haaland (27, Borussia Dortmund).

The top German scorer was Borussia Monchengladbach's Lars Stindl with 14 goals, but he did not make Low's 26-man squad.

Matthaus, who won Euro 1980 with West Germany, believes that for the team to succeed, Low will have to find a way to get the team's attackers like Serge Gnabry, Thomas Muller, and Timo Werner involved inside the penalty box.

In a Zoom interview with South-east Asian media, the 60-year-old said: "Maybe he plays with a false nine, maybe with Thomas Muller or (Kai) Havertz... You can change the system and play without a real No. 9 but then you have to find a system in another way to have players in the box.

"We have players around the box in the national team but they have to go in. It doesn't matter who is playing in which position but we have to give the players a number of ways to come in the box to score and this is possible with the players that we have called up for this tournament."

Chief among the issues that Low will need to sort out would be to get Werner firing again, after a goal-shy season for the Chelsea striker. While Werner's club season ended on a high, with a Champions League winner's medal around his neck, his dismal record of 12 goals in 52 appearances for the Blues raises serious questions over his confidence in front of goal.

The 25-year-old's form for the national team has not been any better, failing to score in three substitute appearances this year.

While he remains a key player for club and country, many are beginning to question his suitability to play in the No. 9 role.

With Euro 2020 a week away, time is running out for Low to find a winning formula. Being drawn in Group F, which many have termed the "Group of Death", with France, Portugal and Hungary, means Low's men can ill afford a slow start.

Germany open their campaign against world champions France, whom Matthaus tipped as his favourites to win the competition. He noted that Didier Deschamps has kept most of his 2018 World Cup-winning squad intact. Moreover, younger players like Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez, both 25, have developed since then, moving to German giants Bayern Munich and becoming Champions League winners.

Matthaus, Germany's most capped player with 150 appearances, believes that reigning European champions Portugal will also provide a stern test, with a star-studded squad including the likes of the talismanic Ronaldo, Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes and Manchester City defender Ruben Dias, who was named the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year.

Matthaus also believes Hungary will not be pushovers either. Having managed the Magyars from 2003 to 2006, he said: "A chance for the Hungarian national team to play against Germany, Portugal and France is a big motivation for the team. It might look easy but it can be very difficult to play against Hungary."

He believes this year's edition is among the strongest in years, with many teams more than capable of claiming the throne - top-ranked Belgium, an up-and-coming Italy, and England.

However, should Germany manage to come out from Group F, they could very well be among the favourites to go on and win it all, predicted the 60-year-old.

The 1990 World Cup winner said: "When you'd like to win a title, maybe it's better to start with games against France and Portugal... It's good for Germany to play three times in Munich where they have a home game, and when you can get good results against these big teams, this gives you confidence and security for the next round.

"I think we have a very good team, we have very good players, but now we have to show it on the field."