By Oliver Trust
BERLIN, Nov. 13 (Xinhua) -- Thomas Mueller, Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng injured; Sami Khedira, Mesut Oezil, Mario Goetze, Mario Gomez, Jonas Hector and Ilkay Guendogan struggling on their way back to action. The lack shape of several German 2014 World Cup heroes and key performers is a reason to be concerned for national coach Joachim Loew.
"We have enough time to do the fine tuning, but we still need to do some work," Loew commented in advance of Germany's friendly against France this Tuesday evening in Cologne.
Like any other coach 57-year-old, Loew is counting on what in football is called an axis on the pitch starting with the goalie ending up at the striker's line. But the stability giving structure now is in danger.
Goalkeeper Neuer is in trouble as it is central defender Boateng (both Bayern Munich), left back Hector (FC Cologne), the midfielders Khedira (Juventus Turin), Oezil (Arsenal), Goetze (Borussia Dortmund) and the strikers Mueller (Bayern) and Gomez (VfL Wolfsburg), returning Guendogan (Manchester City) aside.
While Loew is aware of the exercise load of his cornerstones, the German national coach admits the necessity to individually dosage training and games. "As many of my players have to perform for their clubs, we need to be careful when it comes to the national team. I can see some need individual dosage, but we need a strong team to compete at the 2018 World Cup," Loew emphasized.
Loew called it the most significant challenge to combine both sides. The German coach said he has to work on a plan B when established forces miss the 2018 World Cup as this changes the team's power. "Players like Boateng, Kroos, Neuer, Hummels, and Oezil are part of our axis and overall important for our performance," Loew commented.
Boateng in a recent interview admitted to currently suffering from signs of aging. "You just feel the many years you have been around in football on a high level," the 29-year-old said. After a recent shoulder injury, Boateng left the German squad to get further treatment in Munich due to muscle problems. After the 2016 European Championships, Boateng was only part in three of Germany's 20 internationals.
Like Boateng Khedira, Mueller and Neuer missed most games and are in danger not to be in best shape when Loew decides his 23 player World Cup squad. "We might have to make hard decisions," Loew stressed.
When it comes to Neuer latest rumors, speak of a significant delay after a broken foot bone. Neuer won't manage to return as expected in January 2018 but several weeks later.
Khedira only played twice for Germany in the last 12 month due to minor muscle and knee problems. Oezil lacks the best shape in his club and the German national team. While his future with Arsenal is in doubt (Manchester United is said to be interested) the rooted Turkish midfielder is accused "to disappear" in meaningful games.
The latest record of Bayern Munich striker Mueller is nothing to be happy about too. Having scored no goal at the 2016 European Championships in France, Mueller only managed to score once in six games in 2017.
As several pundits assume the German team will be significantly different to the 2014 World Cup winning side, Loew has to consider implementing alternatives. "The most important thing is to create team-spirit next to the needed quality," Loew stressed.
RB Leipzig left-back Marcel Halstenberg, Leon Goretzka (FC Schalke 04), Julian Draxler (Paris St Germain), Leroy Sane (Manchester City) and Timo Werner (Leipzig) are said to be helpful for Loew finding a new axis good enough to win a World Cup.