Berlin: Just three months after their World Cup triumph, Germany are in a state of shock following the poor start to their Euro 2016 qualifiers with Joachim Loew vowing to make amends.
With four point from their first three qualifiers, including their shock defeat to Poland and draw with the Republic of Ireland, Germany find themselves in the unusual position of third in Group D.
They are already three points adrift of leaders Poland and the second-placed Irish with fans wondering where it all went wrong.
German supporters were still in a state of World Cup euphoria after the Brazil triumph in July when the Euro qualifiers began as the world champions laboured to a 2-1 win over Scotland in September.
The reasons were obvious.
The retirements of defenders Philipp Lahm, Per Mertesacker and goal-machine Miroslav Klose took a combined tally of more than 350-caps worth of experience with them.
Injuries to midfielders Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira meant head coach Loew had to pack new talent around the skeleton of the team which won the World Cup.
But there was still no cause for concern.
After all, Loew retained the nucleus of goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, centre-backs Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng.
Midfield stars Mario Goetze, Mesut Ozil, Toni Kroos and Thomas Mueller all have experience beyond their tender years with memories of that fabulous night in Rio de Janeiro still fresh.
But having spluttered badly against Scotland and in the 4-2 friendly defeat to Argentina, Loew’s finely-tuned machine finally broke down in Warsaw last Saturday.
-Woeful finishing –
The mis-firing attack was made to pay for woeful finishing and wasted chances as Poland earned an historic first win over Germany at the 19th attempt in a shock 2-0 victory.
Loew’s side lost their proud record of 33 qualification matches unbeaten dating back to October 2007.
Despite an air of steely determination, amidst talk of “putting things right”, Loew’s side then threw away a 1-0 lead as John O’Shea celebrated his 100th cap with the 94th-minute winner in Ireland’s 1-1 draw in Gelsenkirchen on Tuesday.
It was one of only three chances the Irish had all game, just like Poland, who had scored twice despite just four clear chances.
The stats from both games paint a stark picture of Germany failing to capitalise despite dominating.
In both matches, they controlled two third of possession and made two passes for each of their opponents’ one.
The corner count was 6-0 to Germany against Poland and an even more emphatic 9-1 against the Irish while the goal chances were 22-4 against the Poles and 19-3 against the Irish.
“We’re, naturally, very disappointed, we had imagined a very different points tally against Poland and Ireland,” admitted Loew who took a single point from the desired six.
“Now we must look forward.
“We will win against Gibraltar and then collect ourselves and concentrate all forces.
“Then we will return next year and fight back.”
The first problem Loew needs to solve is recruiting a striker who can convert all those chances his midfield creates.
Injury and illness did Loew few favours during the recent internationals.
Withdrawals meant he could name only six outfield replacements against Ireland and by naming defender Matthias Ginter next to Kroos he was down to his third-choice defensive midfield pairing.
Without a recognised striker, Loew’s experiment of playing Mueller or Goetze up front as a ‘false nine’ is no longer working like it did in Brazil.
Klose has hung up his boots while Loew has repeatedly over-looked Bayer Leverkusen’s 30-year-old striker Stefan Kiessling.
He has a pair of promising 22-year-olds waiting in the wings in Hoffenheim’s Kevin Volland and Hamburg’s Pierre-Michel Lasogga.
But as both Ireland and Poland have put seven goals past the group’s bottom side Gibraltar, Germany are now under pressure to post a similar score when they host the minnows in November.
Loew also has an away friendly in Spain next month and the opening fixtures of 2015 are against the group’s weaker sides Georgia and Gibraltar.
The German boss acknowledges that he needs to re-ignite a sense of urgency and precision in his side.
“Basically, some players are missing the mental and physical freshness, but I almost expected that,” he said.
“They are missing the final will and precision.
“You can see in one of two players that they are still feeling the effects of having played at the World Cup.”