Despite being at the helm of one of the most talented and youthful squads in the world, German national coach Joachim Löw knows his side are nowhere near as fluid as he wants them to be. Germany recorded wins in their opening two qualifiers, one lacklustre 3-0 against the Faroe Island, and one fortunate 2-1 against Austria.
Fluid or not, maximum points from two games whilst scoring five and conceding only one does not suggest any need to worry. Worry Löw will though because he's a perfectionist and he demands a performance to match the victories. Admittedly, this is something all managers want but unlike very many managers, Löw has a squad capable of delivering that type of performance every week.
Löw's 4-1-4-1 formation against the Faroe Islands was hardly surprising. Germany asserted their superiority but without the composure we've almost come to take for granted in this side. Without taking away from the sterling performance of goalkeeper Gunnar Nielsen in the opening half an hour, Germany's finishing was abject. They had large amounts of possession and yet rather uncharacteristically, continued to make less than impressive decisions in the attacking third. The goals came, as they were bound to, but only three in total (Götze and Özil twice). There were also moments of laziness, maybe even arrogance, in their defence but it was more the lack of attacking guile that caused concern.
In Vienna as expected, Löw returned to the beloved 4-2-3-1 formation, with Khedira and Kroos in the holding midfield roles, Götze being the man sacrificed. Still Germany started the game uncomfortably, something Austria recognised and tried to take advantage of. There is no doubt that this Austria team is an improving one, but without added composure, they'll struggle to live up to the hype. They pressed high up the pitch, forced Germany to turn over possession and were hard in the tackle. They did everything but score in the opening 45 minutes, despite being the better team. The side with the better individuals though was the one that took the lead shortly before the break. Marco Reus fired past Almer, who might well be disappointed not to have done better. Herein lies the problem for Germany. Their individual talent is not far off being on a par with Spain but their team talent remains inconsistent. At times they are superb, at others they are completely beatable. At the moment, they're all singing from the same hymn-sheet but with no harmony. Austria did score to make it 2-1 after Özil scored a rightly awarded penalty for Germany's second. There was no doubting it was a deserved goal for the hosts but their performance merited a point. They got their chance to earn it in the dying moments but Marko Arnautovic fluffed his lines from six yards. The impact of the result would have been far greater than a point gained for Austria and two lost for Germany, it would have been unavoidable evidence that the team really isn't playing well.
Yet two wins from two games and many will not complain. "It's a results business" they'll say, "we're top of the group" they'll say. Ultimately, it depends what you want from football but for Löw, the target is winning beautifully simply because his side are capable of it on a regular basis. It's not so much about a "job done" but more about a 'message sent'. His side have come so close to winning the last three major tournaments and with each of those failures comes a renewed strength and experience in this youthful side. Brazil is seen as the peak, not only as it may be Löw's last chance but also because his squad will, or at least should, finally be ready to realise their potential.