How Low will they go? Lose to Portugal and Germany face another group stage exit… what a way that would be for their World Cup-winning boss to bow out
Joachim Low must have wondered about going out on a high. He must have allowed his mind to drift towards Wembley and the prospect of ending his last dance underneath the arch.
Germany have not won this title since Euro 96 and to triumph again in London would enable Low to parade the trophy on the 15th anniversary of his appointment.
He would be once more a national sporting hero, as he was when conquering the world in Brazil in 2014, and it would be a glorious way to end an era before stepping aside and handing control to his former assistant Hansi Flick.
Joachim Low is desperate not to bow out as Germany boss with a group stage exit
The manager is preparing his side for a crunch clash with Portugal on Saturday
On Saturday however, such dreams might seem remote because one game into Euro 2020 and Germany are on a knife-edge as they prepare to face Portugal in Munich.
It is the price of a difficult draw. Plunged not only into the toughest group but also into an opening fixture against world champions and tournament favourites France.
Anyone can lose to the French. It is no disgrace and Low’s team lost only narrowly. Another defeat, nevertheless.
‘We know pressure increases with a defeat,’ said Low on Friday night. ‘We can deal with pressure. I have known pressure for 15 years in this job. There is not a situation I can’t deal with.
‘We need a good result to keep in our hands the place in the last 16 but the pressure won’t suppress us.’
The Germans suffered a 1-0 defeat by France in their opening game of Euro 2020
The Germans have won only five of their last 10 games, a miserable run featuring lowlights such as a 6-0 humiliation by Spain in the Nations League and defeat at home to North Macedonia in a World Cup qualifier.
As they lost again on Tuesday, Flick’s presence at the Allianz Arena in a seat directly behind the bench, began to take on an air of grim reaper rather than supportive friend and former colleague.
Low’s bold move to recall veterans Mats Hummels and Thomas Muller backfired swiftly with Muller unable to contribute anything useful in attack against France while Hummels scored in his own net, the only goal of the game.
There is public pressure, with legends such as Lothar Matthaus and Mehmet Scholl calling for Low to abandon his 3-4-3 formation and revert to a back-four, releasing Joshua Kimmich to play into a more central role.
‘It has nothing to do with the system,’ said Low, who confirmed midfielder Leon Goretzka was fit after injury but not ready to start. ‘Our team is flexible. We just need to find the right balance. It was a good defensive performance against France. Perhaps too secure.
‘It’s no secret that we just didn’t create enough so we have worked on this and that’s why we are all optimistic.
There is clamour for Joshua Kimmich to play centrally rather than as a full-back
‘We need to add attacking power, more intensity, create more free spaces. We need to show courage and take risks, be faster, occupy the spaces better and be more effective, precision is needed.’
At the World Cup in Russia, three years ago, Germany were beaten by Mexico and South Korea and failed to progress beyond the group stages for the first time since 1938.
They have not lost to Portugal since 2000 but defeat on Saturday will leave them starting at another premature exit.
The European champions are brimming with confidence after three late goals to silence a capacity crowd in Budapest with a 3-0 win against Hungary, and with Cristiano Ronaldo on the prowl for more records.
Ronaldo, the only player to appear in five finals, has scored in them all and will on Saturday equal Gianluigi Buffon’s record of 58 appearances in the Euros, including qualifiers.
Two goals against Hungary in Budapest confirmed him as the leading scorer in the history of Euros finals with 11 and took him to within three of the international scoring record of 109 held by Iran’s Ali Daei.
But he has never scored against Germany. Another positive omen for Low on a day when he needs them.