Loew set to leave out strikers

SLEEPLESS IN ASTANA::Germany’s players have been going to bed at dawn and training at midnight in preparation for today’s late kick-off in Kazakhstan’s capital

Reuters, BERLIN

Fri, Mar 22, 2013 - Page 19

Whether it was Gerd Mueller, Rudi Voeller or Miroslav Klose, Germany have never had a shortage of gifted strikers, but when they take on Kazakhstan in their World Cup qualifier today there could be none in their lineup.

Germany, top of 2014 World Cup European qualifying Group C on 10 points from four games, will be looking to get all three points in Astana and will most likely try to do it without a designated forward.

With their last trophy dating back to 1996, the three-time world and European champions are eager to mold a team that can challenge for the biggest crown of all in Brazil next year and coach Joachim Loew is ready to try everything.

In what is likely to be the latest shift from the traditional German style of play, Loew could deploy “a fake nine” as a centerforward, with offensive midfielder Mario Goetze looking set to start ahead of forward Mario Gomez.

Gone are the days of physical play and rock-solid defenses — Loew has reinvented Germany as a lightning-quick, young team, more eager to score four goals and let in three than keep a clean sheet at all costs.

“I have been toying for some time with the idea that players could take turns playing as forwards,” Loew told reporters. “It does not always have to be a big, physical centerforward, but smaller, more agile players, who can find the right solutions in tight spaces and cause problems for the sometimes slower defenders.”

With Spain setting the standard for such a style of play when they cruised to the Euro 2012 title without an out-and-out striker, Loew is eager to try it out as German fans are getting desperate for success.

The trip to Astana could be a good opportunity to wean Germany off their strikers with the pace likely to be quick on the artificial pitch. With Klose out injured and Gomez the only real striker option, Loew looks set to adapt their play.

Loew will also have holding midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger back to orchestrate their game and a so-called fake nine, falling back in midfield, while also acting as a lone forward, could be exactly the connection they need to link their play.

Germany will be looking to get the full six points from lowly Kazakhstan in their two games today and next Tuesday to maintain their three-point advantage over second-placed Sweden, who have played a match less.

For Kazakhstan coach Miroslav Beranek the question will not be how to score goals, so much as how to seal their porous defense.

Kazakhstan, in fifth place with one point from four games, have let in an average of two goals per game in the campaign and look set to throw bodies into defense today, while waiting for a quick break to sting Germany.

“The match won’t be easy and it’s likely the Germans will have most of the possession and we will have to rely on counterattacks,” Kazakhstan midfielder Marat Khairullin said.

He said the fact that the match is kicking off at midnight Astana time — mid-evening in central Europe — will help the visitors, who have been going to bed at dawn and training at midnight in preparation for the game.

“We will have to go to bed later to adapt too,” Khairullin added.

Midfielder Heinrich Schmidtgal, an ethnic German from Kazakhstan who plays for SpVgg Greuther Furth in the Bundesliga, has fully recovered from an injury and is expected to play.