Slow and steady, Germany get ready for Euro 2016
Loew's men are perfect blend of age and experience
SCOTLAND 2 (Mats Hummels 28-og, McArthur 43)
GERMANY 3 (Thomas Mueller 18, 34, Ilkay Guendogan 54)
If this is a World Cup hangover, then every other nation would love to be as drunk as Germany.
The reports of Die Mannschaft's demise have not been greatly exaggerated, but they have been commonplace.
The theory goes that coach Joachim Loew peaked at the Maracana last year, taking his band of Bundesliga academy boys to the end of the line. They graduated and school's been out ever since.
The Germans are sheepish without Phillip Lahm and the mercurial form of longstanding talisman Bastian Schweinsteiger mirrors that of his countrymen. They shone in the Brazilian sunshine.
They continue to sputter through Euro 2016 qualifying, labouring to a 3-2 win against Scotland yesterday (Singapore time).
Group D should've been a cakewalk, but it's been a long road instead. Qualification has yet to be confirmed. Even England are already over the line.
But too much can be read from the qualifying campaign. The Three Lions often roar through the qualifiers only to whimper like drowning kittens in the Finals.
The Germans time their dash for glory. Peaking too soon is for pretenders.
Read between the lines of Loew's established's 4-2-3-1 formation and discover not weary men struggling with a World Cup hangover, but a young squad recalibrating for their European challenge.
In the week of the latest qualifiers, an excellent book on Germany's legendary football revolution - Das Reboot by Raphael Honigstein - was also released and it was tempting to draw a lazy comparison.
The youth policies that were initiated in 1998, culminating in the landmark decision that made it compulsory for Bundesliga teams to build performance centres, produced the likes of Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira, but the production line has allegedly stalled.
The next batch of Bundesliga boys is not coming through.
But check the numbers again. Look at Germany's line-up against Scotland, not only on the pitch but also on the bench.
Apart from Lukas Podolski, the oldest of the other 10 substitutes was Max Kruse at 27. Six were below 24.
And consider the goalscorers. Ilkay Guendogan, yet another nascent star who rejected the overtures of Manchester United, justified his selection by finishing off the goal of the game.
Germany's third was an exquisite example of the kind of fast, direct football that results from intelligent design, a move started in a Bundesliga academy a decade ago and finished in Hampden Park.
Guendogan's form has been outstanding. United and Barcelona are both circling. He is only 24.
Thomas Mueller is a year older, but already has a World Cup winner's medal to go with the World Cup Golden Boot and every club trophy in the game. At international level, his consistency surpasses Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
He's both a jungle predator and a midfielder from Mensa, the smartest assassin in world football. The number on his jersey means nothing. He roams where he pleases. He feeds between the lines.
His assist for Guendogan was more impressive than his own double. He's a complete player who keeps improving. Euro 2016 will not see a better player in his position.
The same could be said of Toni Kroos, who was player of the tournament in Brazil and Man of the Match yesterday. He knitted pretty patterns with the ease of a gossiping seamstress, tearing the Scots apart. He is still only 25.
But Germany's artful dodger at Euro 2016 should be Mario Goetze. He mugged the Argentinians in the Maracana. He was omnipotent against Poland last week, delivering another masterful performance in pinching pockets of space.
He is barely 23.
Youth is on Loew's side.
Defensive stability, on the other hand, is a little harder to come by.
Against Scotland, Manuel Neuer did more sweeping than keeping, conceding two soft goals to hand the hosts a glimmer of hope they didn't deserve.
And Lahm's departure undoubtedly left Germany out on a limb. There is something wrong about their right side.
Like Brendan Rodgers before him, Loew is learning the hard way that Emre Can takes on the appearance of a pantomime cow. He's cute going forward, but a little clumsy from behind.
At right back, he struggled against Scotland's Shaun Maloney, an outcome that must have surprised even Maloney. The Hull City winger is not renowned for skinning World Cup sides.
But again, Can is still only 21. His positional awareness should still improve under Loew's guidance.
His men are by no means the finished article. Nor should they be. The finish line is months away.
But the elegant craftsmanship was a joy to behold against Scotland. Their work in progress still looks a lot like an exhibition.
In Germany's case, youth is not wasted on the young.
Strachan: We are not out of it yet
Scotland boss Gordon Strachan insists his men can still reach the European Championship in France next summer despite their 3-2 defeat against Germany at Hampden Park leaving them chasing a play-off spot at best.
The Scots went into the interval level after coming from behind twice with a Mats Hummels own goal and James McArthur strike cancelling out a Thomas-Mueller double.
But Ilkay Guendogan's 54th-minute strike proved to be the winner for the world champions.
And with two Group D qualifying fixtures left for the Scots - second-placed Poland at home and minnows Gibraltar away - they remain in fourth place, four points behind Republic of Ireland and cannot finish in the top-two automatic qualifying places.
The Scotland boss said: "Let's get this straight. We are still in this. Trust me, we are still in this.
"If we play like that, with determination, with a wee bit of luck - we never had that tonight, but they went through that pain barrier.
"But we are still in this and I can't wait to get them back together to go again in the next two games. I am proud of them and they should be proud of themselves.
"There are a couple of occasions in my managerial career when I get happy or sad but, this time, I actually feel for the players.
"Over two games, they have put in some amount of work. They are disappointed.
"Sometimes football is more than what you drink or eat, it is what is inside you.
"We kept coming back against the world champions and they can be proud of their performance."
It was the Scots' second defeat in their September double-header, following the disappointing 1-0 loss in Georgia on Friday night.
The Germans, for their part, showed for most of the night why they are World Cup holders and Strachan referred to their remarkable 7-1 semi-final win over Brazil last summer in his admiration of them.
The former Scotland midfielder said: "All due respect to Poland, but I don't think anyone can be as good in possession as Germany.
"Somebody said there that we didn't attack them too often. Ask Brazil how they got on against them.
"It will be hard against Poland. They are a top side as well. We have had two chances over the last couple of days to pick up points and we have not done that. We can't blame anyone else."
Germany are two points ahead of Poland at the top of the group and assured of at least a play-off.
And after wins over the Poland and Scotland, boss Joachim Loew said: "The objective of the Poland and this was six points and that is exactly what we have done.
"So I am proud to say that we have made big steps towards France in 2016.
"The match was anything but easy for long stretches of the game, particularly, as Scotland were practically surrounding their own box, operating long balls and hoping for dead-ball situations in front of our box.
"We largely controlled this game and didn't allow Scotland any chances in open play.
"We were in possession most of the time and the win was well-deserved."
- PA Sport.
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