'Players running around like headless chickens'

The Netherlands' players celebrating after midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum (No. 8) scores late into stoppage time to give the Oranje a 3-0 victory on Saturday, their first win against the Germans in 16 years.
The Netherlands' players celebrating after midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum (No. 8) scores late into stoppage time to give the Oranje a 3-0 victory on Saturday, their first win against the Germans in 16 years.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Coach Low says Germany lack confidence but stays defiant against calls for him to quit

AMSTERDAM • Joachim Low is facing the biggest crisis of his 12-year tenure as Germany's head coach after their embarrassing 3-0 away loss to the Netherlands on Saturday.

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk gave the Dutch a first-half lead before late goals by former Manchester United forward Memphis Depay and Reds midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum capped a golden night for the Oranje at Amsterdam's Johan Cruyff Arena.

The loss equalled Low's worst result of his tenure - Germany suffered a 3-0 defeat by the Czech Republic 11 years ago in a qualifier for Euro 2008.

These are dark days for Germany in the wake of their dismal World Cup display when they crashed out after finishing bottom of their group in the summer.

They are now also propping up Group One in the Nations League and Low must avoid defeat by world champions France in Paris tomorrow to avoid relegation from the competition's top tier.

Low, who surpassed Sepp Herberger to set a record in his 168th game in charge of the national team, admits confidence is a problem after five defeats in nine matches.

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  • Defeats Germany have suffered this year, including two at the World Cup.

"It's not only about converting the chances. Players have to take responsibility and not run around like headless chickens," he said.

"After conceding, you could see that recent results have led to a lack of confidence. Why are we not scoring? That's difficult to answer, we have clear chances (to do so). Had we lost 1-0, it would have been acceptable but breaking apart like this in the last 10 minutes is not good."

On growing calls for him to resign, the 58-year-old told German broadcaster ZDF: "Yes, I understand that there is a debate and we have to deal with it.

"In the next two days, I will focus entirely on preparing the team against France, and not on the debates. We have to show character against France, and win the return match against the Dutch."

After former Germany captain Michael Ballack said he was "surprised" Low kept his job after their woeful World Cup campaign, the Dutch defeat ramps up the unrelenting pressure, with German media turning on him over the weekend.

Bild's headline read: "The belief in Low disappears", while Spiegel Online was equally scathing, saying: "It will not get better" and Suddeutsche Zeitung dubbed the humbling as a "debacle for the German team and their national coach".

Once again, Low placed his faith in his senior players, but his Bayern Munich axis of Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels and Thomas Mueller all failed to deliver again, just like in Russia.

And Hummels admitted Die Mannschaft have to expect a backlash from the fans after their fifth loss this year. "We'll get it in the neck now, but we have no one to blame but ourselves," he said.

Neuer agreed that it was the players who were at fault and not Low.

"Before the game, every player signalled to the coach that they were ready to play," he told reporters. "At the end, we were too open and made mistakes."

Their opponents, on the other hand, were delighted with their first win over the 2014 world champions in 16 years.

"Sometimes you need a bit of luck, but we deserved the win, fought for every inch and defended well," said Dutch coach Ronald Koeman, who handed starting debuts to PSV Eindhoven duo Denzel Dumfries and Steven Bergwijn.

"It's an unbelievable result, especially as the Germans weren't that bad. It's 16 years since we beat Germany and we are on the right way with a talented, young team."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


What's wrong with Die Mannschaft?

MISPLACED FAITH IN SENIORS

Joachim Low has a core of senior players whose best days are behind them. Jerome Boateng appears disinterested and hopelessly off the pace, Thomas Muller's long run of poor form is beginning to look like slow decline and Mats Hummels does not look like the player he once was. The main problem is that Low's loyalty to certain players has strayed into the territory of favouritism. The likes of Leroy Sane, Julian Brandt, Niklas Sule and Leon Goretzka must be wondering what more they need to do to start under Low.

FIXING WHAT AIN'T BROKEN

For the Netherlands match, Low used right-back Joshua Kimmich - virtually the only German player who performed in Russia - as a central midfielder, attempting to stabilise the defence at the cost of their only reliable offensive creator. Germany's defence remains as vulnerable as ever, and Kimmich clearly has his limitations as a defensive midfielder. Even his replacement, Matthias Ginter, who plies his trade as a centre-back at Monchengladbach, was played out of position.

TOOTHLESS IN FRONT OF GOAL

Germany had 21 shots against the Netherlands but found the target with just four of them, and that summed up their potency in front of goal right now. It took their tally to two goals from 107 shots in their last five matches.

Low is in desperate need of a goal scorer to make the difference but, instead, he made the most baffling decision of starting with striker Mark Uth against the Dutch. The 27-year-old has yet to score for Schalke after 660 minutes in the Bundesliga this season. Germany could have fared better if Low had started Timo Werner as a striker, supporting him with a winger in Sane.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2018, with the headline ''Players running around like headless chickens''. Print Edition | Subscribe