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Germany before the tournament

What Low hopes to learn at Russia 2017

SOCHI, RUSSIA - JUNE 18:  Head coach Joachim Loew attends a Germany press conference during the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017 at Fisht stadium on June 18, 2017 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Alex Grimm - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
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  • Joachim Low named an experimental squad for Russia 2017
  • German coach sees the Confed Cup as "a gift"
  • Low looking to test new players and systems at tournament

Joachim Low has made it clear from the start that the FIFA Confederations Cup 2017 provides him with a welcome opportunity to answer some of his own questions. “For me, the Confed Cup is a gift,” he explained at Saturday evening’s press conference. “It helps us to make some of our players better by giving them the kind of experience you can only get at a tournament like this.”

* *presents a few of the questions that the FIFA World Cup™-winning coach will be hoping to answer:

Who is my backup to Manuel Neuer?
While none of the three goalkeepers who travelled with Germany to Russia dispute the fact that Neuer is the clear first choice, who should step up when the Bayern shot-stopper cannot play? More importantly, who is in pole position to succeed the 31-year-old when he eventually retires from international football? All three candidates are arguably strong enough to step straight into the No1 role for many national teams.

Although 25-year-old Bernd Leno starts against Australia, Low has made it clear that this is primarily because Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 25, and Kevin Trapp, 26, featured in the two matches before the tournament. “After Manu the competition has really opened up, and that helps all of us to develop,” Leno explained on the eve of the Australia match. “All three of us goalkeepers are pretty much evenly matched. All of us try to give everything in training and matches to make sure that the coach turns to us when something is wrong with Manu.”

Who offers me world-class quality?
The Germany coach is looking for world class – nothing more, nothing less. “Many of these guys are 20, 21 and have not yet reached their full potential,” Low explained. “Only a few of them are already world class, while others need another two or three years to get there.” The players who demonstrate or indicate that kind of quality at this tournament will hope for a return to Russia in 12 months time.

How will we fare with three at the back?
Ever since the 2014 FIFA World Cup™, Low has repeatedly stressed the need for his team to continue developing. This has meant experimenting with the status quo every now and again, including the introduction of a back three that has proved less than popular among fans and pundits. For a tactician like Low, however, flexibility is a precious commodity, and he selected this system in the UEFA EURO 2016 quarter-final against Italy that Germany won on penalties.

“Formations are a key issue for us,” the 57-year-old explained. “It’s possible that we’ll use different systems during the tournament and perhaps even within a single match. Being able to experiment in competition conditions is extremely useful.”

Can Wagner give me the Gomez factor?
With his ability to hold and distribute the ball, not to mention to collect and score from almost any type of cross into the box, the physically imposing Sandro Wagner is the kind of player not seen in a Germany shirt for several years.

Mario Gomez paved the way for this kind of tactical deployment at EURO 2016 in France, with his absence through injury from the team’s eventual semi-final exit to the hosts considered to be a crucial blow. “He gives our game something we haven’t really utilised in the past,” captain Julian Draxler said of Wagner. If the 29-year-old Hoffenheim striker can carry his pre-tournament form into the competition itself, he will be likely to earn himself a place at next summer’s World Cup.

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