Discontent summer piles pressure on Jogi's boys

All you need is Löw? Photo wikimedia/SteindyThe arrival of Oktoberfest means summer can finally be kissed goodbye, but for Jogi Löw's Germany the 2012 edition was not a good one.

Germany went off to Euro 2012 with a whiff of a fourth European crown in the air and dominated the so-called Group of Death with wins over Holland, Portugal and Denmark without really hitting top gear.

The quarter-final trouncing of Greece suggested more was to come from Löw's youngsters, but the wheels came off the chariot in the semi-final defeat to Italy.

Mario Balotelli first goal tore up whatever Löw had planned, exposed centre-back Mats Hummels on the flank, then his defensive partner Holger Badstuber was found wanting in the middle when the Man City star smashed home his header.

By the time Balotelli struck again, Germany were seeing stars on the ropes at 2-0 down with 36 minutes gone and no clear Plan B.

The sight of Löw's seasoned campaigners Bastian Schweinsteiger and captain Philipp Lahm looking not so much anxious as clueless showed up a lack of leadership.

The Warsaw woes have crept into the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign.

The 3-0 win in Hanover against minnows Faroe Islands should have been a rout and only Mesut Özil 's two second-half goals bulked up a slender scoreline.

Likewise, the 2-1 win over Austria in Vienna could and should have been a draw had Marko Arnautovic's glorious late chance flown past Manuel Neuer, rather than wide.

With Kicker's headline screaming "Stumped. Helpless. Leaderless" there are a few anxious faces amongst Germany's football pundits.

Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness, never one to hold back when an opinion is called for, says the players have to step up.

"He (Löw) has put in some good work, but I believe the players have to be called into question and put under pressure more."

Ex-captain Oliver Kahn has already stated the blindingly obvious by insisting Germany's defensive frailties must be fixed by Löw if he is to see out his contract until Brazil 2014.

Having dazzled with calm composure and lethal attacking flair in those dizzy days of the 2010 World Cup, Germany's midfield creativity is undeniable when Özil, Mario Götze or Marco Reus are present, but the finishing touches are worryingly lacking.

Schweinsteiger's calming influence will hopefully return for next month's qualifiers, but it remains to be seen what state he is in on the international stage after a poor Euro and THAT night in Munich last May.

Lukas Podolski has dropped from favour on the left side of the attacking midfield, although he looked good for Arsenal against Southampton, Mario Gomez still has the ability to drop out of games completely and is recovering from injury, while the wait for Miroslav Klose to score those few remaining goals needed to break Gerd Müller's record seems eternal.

Sterner tests lie ahead with the Republic of Ireland waiting in Dublin on October 12 and Sweden will be no push-overs in Berlin four days later.

Yellow cards picked up against Faroe Islands and Austria mean Lahm will sit out the trip to Dublin with Schweinsteiger, Sami Khedira or Neuer the most obvious replacements to take over the captain's arm band.

Löw needs convincing wins over the Irish and Swedes to be sure the summer breeze of grumbles about his team don't blow into a wintry gale of discontent.


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