Germany have reliquinshed Euro 2008 favouritism after their 2-1 defeat to GroupÃ‚Â B winners Croatia and Joachim Low will have to make major changes if they’re to have serious ambitions on lifting the trophy.
The pre-tournament favourites, who are now football odds of 7 to win it, can still reach the quarter-finals with a draw against co-hosts Austria on Monday, but Low needs to switch his personnel or formation or even both once the knock-out phase arrives.
The Germans were beaten by a harder working and more creative Croatia outfit on Thursday and Low must address his team’s failings ahead of a likely meeting with Portugal in the quarter-finals.
Low will have toÃ‚Â alter aÃ‚Â midfield who too often allowed Croatia players to run beyond them – leaving Torsten Frings the unenviable task of trying to stop wave after wave of Croatia attacks.
Michael Ballack is naturally an offensive player and with the two wide midfielders Lukas Podolski and Clemens Fritz offering very little defensively, then it’s easy to see why Croatia came out on top and rewarded soccer betting punters who sided with the underdogs.
Podolski, who has netted three goals, is a striker being utilised in a wide midfield role and with his defending thin on the ground he has so far offered struggling full-back Marcell Jansen no cover at all.
Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez are both front runners and do little defensive work and it could be one of those two that is given the axe.
Poldolski could be moved further forward given his goalscoring exploits, allowing Low to pick a midfielder who is able to double up as a defensive aid.
Bastian Schweinsteiger is banned against Austria so the mobility of Simon Rolfes could beÃ‚Â be an option or the introduction of Thomas Hitzlsperger or Tim Borowski in a new-look midfield.
Left-back Jansen looks sure to get the chop after two unconvincing displays with Arne Friedrich his likely deputy, but Low will have recognised he needs to tinker with his side if they are to progress.
The changes won’t need to be made ahead of the clash with Austria, who are 87 places behind Germany in the FIFA world rankings, but don’t be surprised to see a new-look Germany in the last eight – provided Low’s men qualify.
By Phil Tomlinson
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