MARSEILLE, France (AP) — A look at some of the tactical choices for Germany coach Joachim Loew ahead of the European Championship semifinal against France.
Loew has a defensive riddle to solve with central defender Mats Hummels ruled out through suspension. Not only that, but the coach has to ponder whether to stick with his three-man defense that allowed five players to crowd the midfield in the quarterfinal against Italy, or revert to the more familiar four-at-the-back that didn’t concede in the group games against Ukraine, Poland and Northern Ireland, or in the round of 16 match against Slovakia.
Jerome Boateng will anchor the defensive line no matter which option Loew chooses. Benedikt Hoewedes will likely take Hummels’ position, either alongside Boateng in central defense, or at left back with Jonas Hector dropping back on the other side of a three-man defense.
Sami Khedira is ruled out with a left groin injury but captain Bastian Schweinsteiger has been passed fit to play after recovering from a knock to his injury-prone right knee.
“Schweinsteiger will definitely start,” Loew said on the eve of the game. “He has the physical conditioning and strength to play from the beginning. His experience is hugely important in such a cauldron.”
With Schweinsteiger starting alongside the increasingly important Toni Kroos, Borussia Dortmund’s Julian Weigl or Liverpool’s Emre Can will have to wait for their tournament debuts. One of them could feature later in the game if fresh legs are needed against formidable French duo Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi.
Loew has another injury-induced change to make to his forward line with Mario Gomez ruled out for the rest of the tournament with a torn muscle in his right thigh.
Though fully fit, Thomas Mueller is a particular cause for concern. Mueller has had more touches in an opposing penalty box than any other player at Euro 2016, 39 according to the Opta statistics service, but he is yet to score.
Mario Goetze could return as a “false 9” but his early performances did not inspire either. He was dropped for the games against Slovakia and Italy.
Julian Draxler produced a man-of-the-match performance against Slovakia but was dropped to the bench in favor of defensive stability against Italy. The Wolfsburg playmaker could make another substitute appearance.
Schalke’s exciting forward Leroy Sane is yet to appear, but he could be the one to make a difference against a suspect French back-line late in the game. Veteran forward Lukas Podolski and Wolfsburg’s Andre Schuerrle are other options.
In contrast to France coach Didier Deschamps, Loew has had his side practice penalties at the team’s tournament base in Evian-les-Bains – not that it seemed to make any difference as three players missed in the shootout against Italy. Only two German players had ever missed in a tournament shootout before.
“We will definitely be optimally prepared,” Germany goalkeeping coach Andreas Koepke said of a potential penalty shootout before the game.
West Germany lost the 1976 European Championship final on penalties to Czechoslovakia, but the Germans have won all six of their tournament shootouts since, including against France in the 1982 World Cup semifinal.
Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.