The stern look on Joachim Loew’s face as he entered the remote team hotel in the forests on the outskirts of Stuttgart seemed to tell the story of the delicate mission lying ahead.
Never before in his 14 years as the German national coach, has the 60-year-old found himself in such a challenging situation.
With only ten months ahead of Euro 2021, the 2014 world champions re-start after a 289-day break due to the COVID-19 pandemic is taking place under difficult conditions.
Facing UEFA Nation’s League games against Spain this Thursday in Stuttgart and Switzerland on Sunday in Basel must feel like starting from scratch.
Despite having to deliver satisfying results on his way to the postponed European Championships, Loew needs to deal with the loss of vital figures and the tight timetable involving eight internationals in the space of 11 weeks up until mid-November.
Meanwhile, national team managing director Oliver Bierhoff admitted the German association needs the TV revenue to cover its losses after nearly a full year without internationals.
“I would have preferred more training sessions instead of that many games,” Loew said. Trying to set up a competitive team for next year’s tournament isn’t the only obstacle in his way.
Four of Bayern Munich’s Champions League-winning performers, and two of RB Leipzig’s semi-final-participants have been left out due to them enjoying a vacation after the Champions League’s final tournament in Lisbon.
Manuel Neuer, Serge Gnabry, Leon Goretzka, Joshua Kimmich (all Bayern) and the Leipzig stars Lukas Klostermann and Marcel Halstenberg will join the team later.
Barcelona keeper Marc Andre Ter Stegen is sidelined until October after a knee operation.
Despite being pleased with the German clubs’ successes, he is concerned about the upcoming season, which forces the national leagues and international competitions into a tight schedule.
“To prepare for the Euro in time must be our main goal,” Loew commented. “Everything we do must be focussed on next year, physically and mentally.”
Loew confirmed he might continue to take a risky path after leaving out experienced figures such as Thomas Mueller, Jerome Boateng, and Mats Hummels, in his attempt to rejuvenate his squad.
“We need to give the new generation the opportunity to gain experience and make their way,” he said.
As much as Loew is pleased with his promising young talents’ ambitions, he must be concerned about several of his performers having to catch up after injuries, or having to invest additional effort to succeed at new clubs.
Defender Niklas Suele has returned after a nine-month-long injury break, and Bayern’s new arrival Leroy Sane still needs to prove his fitness after a knee injury.
Timo Werner even skipped the Champions League final round with Leipzig to secure a solid start at Chelsea. Midfielder Kai Havertz is expected to follow, joining the Blues from Leverkusen. The deal worth 100 million euros is expected to be announced within the coming days.
“It feels like coming home after a long journey for all of us,” defender Suele said. It might still be a long way to go, but we want to go for the title in 2021. All of our games are crucial tests until next summer,” the 2020 treble winner added.