By beating Poland on Friday night and avenging a first competitive defeat against their bitter rivals from almost a year ago, world champions Germany all but confirmed their place at next summer’s European Championships.
It has been an occasionally bumpy road to qualification following a World Cup hangover few saw coming, with that Poland defeat in amongst some poor friendly results and a substandard performance at home against no-hopers Gibraltar.
But with their place at France 2016 virtually confirmed ahead of tonight’s Scotland clash, Joachim Löw can finally switch his attentions to fine-tuning in the final three competitive fixtures.
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There are few places up for contention in a squad that remains strewn with young, attacking flair headed up by the ever reliable Thomas Müller. Even in defence, Mats Hummels’ return to his imperious best following a disastrous dip at Borussia Dortmund last season closes the door for young centre-backs like Shkodran Mustafi or Jonathan Tah.
Yet two positions at full back remain up for grabs before the Euros kick off next summer.
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No natural successors to Phillip Lahm
Replacing Phillip Lahm is a task most managers would struggle with and Löw is no different after the experienced full-back retired following the World Cup triumph.
All those tried and test post-Lahm have been a case of square pegs in round holes.
Most recently for the Poland game, Emre Can made his senior international bow as a makeshift right back and endured an indifferent night in Frankfurt. Despite a generally solid performance, the cross for Robert Lewandowski’s goal came from a position Can should be covering.
Can, who is used to being played out of position by Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool, will only be a temporary fix as Löw chases a more permanent solution.
Hoffenheim’s Sebastian Rudy has also deputised at right back but, like Can, is better suited to a midfield role and struggled in his few appearances at international level.
Can Hector keep stiff competition at bay?
Where Germany lacks a natural option at right back there is an embarrassment of riches over on the left hand side.
The current occupant is Jonas Hector, who plies his trade with 1. FC Köln in the Bundesliga, and the 25-year-old has given Löw decidedly less headaches.
An assist against Poland proved Hector to be a naturally attacking full back and although the Köln man has performed well since his debut against Gibraltar, he faces a tough task to keep his place.
Marcel Schmelzer suffered an injury-hit 2014/15 but has put a rough campaign behind him, like club mate Hummels, to impress in Dortmund’s opening fixtures. Löw surprised many by not including him in the recent squad, though he may have considered it too soon and will surely include him if he retains his current form.
Schmelzer is not the only experienced left back waiting in the wings; Benedikt Höwedes, a feature throughout the successful World Cup tournament, is due back in action following a serious ankle injury.
And so Löw has problems on either side for differing reasons – too many left backs yet not enough right backs.
He has promised to switch it up against Scotland at Hampden Park and could give an indication as to his forward thinking ahead of next summer's big tournament.
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