The German national team picked up an important 2-0 victory over Northern Ireland last night, replacing them at the top of Group C in their 2020 European Championship qualifying group. Head coach Joachim Löw speaks to DFB.de about the difficult game in Belfast, and the development of his team.
Interviewer: Mr Löw, what is your conclusion of your 2-0 win over Northern Ireland?
Joachim Löw: It was a very fast-paced, difficult 90 minutes here in Belfast; they tried to take the game to us in the first half and didn’t make it easy for us. At half time we had to correct a thing or two because our shape wasn’t ideal. We performed much better in the second half. We had a few hurdles to overcome, but that was expected because the team had never played in this way before.
Interviewer: What, specifically, did you address during the break?
Löw: Brandt, Reus, Gnabry and Werner were tracking back too much and failing to cover the space in the midfield. So I told them to stay more advanced because there were gaps that they could take advantage of. We needed to attack their defence with pace because they were overstretched. Furthermore, it was clear that the players were feeling the pressure, as they were trying to rush it by hitting long balls rather than playing out from the defence. I told them to stay calm, and the opportunities will come.
Interviewer: How pleased were you with the mentality of your players?
Löw: That’s something that we’ve talked a lot about over the past few days; we needed to show that we wanted it more than them, and that we were ready to go into tackles. The team did this very well. We failed to do this against Holland but today was much better.
Interviewer: Would you say it was better, or a sign that you’re now playing at the level you want to be at?
Löw: It was better.
Interviewer: Do you expect a little bit more from leaders such as Marco Reus?
Löw: Marco, Manu Neuer, Toni Kroos and Jo Kimmich have all been with us for a few years now – it’s time for them to take on a bit more responsibility by showing the other players they’re ready for the game, through their body language and demeanour on the pitch. Marco perhaps didn’t perform as well as he’s capable of, but he is an outstanding footballer and an important part of our team.
Interviewer: What’s the next step for the team?
Löw: Continuity is vital. But it’s not as easy as people may think. Compared to the game in Amsterdam, we are missing six or seven players, five of who started in the 3-2 victory. Beating Northern Ireland is a step in the right direction, but we still need to sharpen up certain aspects of our team. Improving our chemistry is a priority for such a young squad.
Interviewer: How far away are you from being world champions again – and how prepared are you for the European Championships?
Löw: The route to the top is never easy. We still have a few more months to improve. Holland needed three years to rebuild; we need time to get there. We have already shown how much quality we have, and the potential is there. We still have Sané, Goretzka, Gündogan, Rüdiger and Schulz to come back and when they are back, and our team is complete, we have a very strong squad.