Missing inspirational World Cup-winning captain Philipp Lahm, Germany begin Euro 2016 against Ukraine on Sunday bwith major doubts over whether they can reach the heights of Brazil two years ago.
The versatile Lahm retired from international football after the World Cup leaving a gap that coach Joachim Loew has found difficult to fill, whilst a series of injuries have further disrupted Germany’s preparation.
Moreover, erratic form in qualifying and in the build-up to the Euros has eroded confidence in the world champions. Germany suffered away defeats to both Ireland and Poland in qualifying and threw away a two-goal lead to lose 2-3 at home to England in March.
An inexperienced side including several debutants lost to Slovakia last month before a full-strength side struggled to see off Hungary last Saturday.
“We saw that we’ve needed to turn one or two screws to make improvements,” Loew said on Friday.
“In a few situations (in the warm-up games) we weren’t particularly dynamic or fresh.” Indeed, Loew has picked the youngest squad present in France with Borussia Dortmund star Marco Reus and Roma defender Antonio Ruediger missing out through injury.
Ruediger’s absence may mean Bayern Munich’s latest recruit from rivals Dortmund, Mats Hummels, may be rushed back to face Ukraine despite not featuring since tearing a calf muscle in his last game for his old club in the German Cup final on May 21. Captain Bastian Schweinsteiger is set to only start on the bench in Lille on Sunday.