Germans save face with goalless draw against Dutch
BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's goalless draw against rivals Netherlands in Amsterdam on Wednesday would have raised eyebrows for its lack of action a few years back but the visitors can breathe a sigh of relief after a tumultuous season.
Germany coach Joachim Loew, under growing fire following a semi-final exit at Euro 2012 and a 4-4 draw against Sweden last month after leading 4-0, made sure his team ended the year on a moderate high.
The Germans are top of their World Cup qualifying group and despite failing to end their 16-year wait for a major trophy in the Euros in Poland and Ukraine in June, the abundance of talent in the team bodes well for the future.
The Germans were missing nine players on Wednesday through illness or injury, including Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira, but still managed to keep a clean sheet and carve out a handful of scoring chances in the first half.
A lack of forwards, due to the absence of Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez, meant 20-year-old midfielder Mario Goetze was thrust forward in a makeshift attack against their bitter rivals.
The Borussia Dortmund playmaker could have capped a decent performance with a goal were it not for Dutch defender John Heitinga who twice came to the rescue.
In the absence of Holger Badstuber, Jerome Boateng and Marcel Schmelzer, Loew's defence was also quickly cobbled together, shifting captain Philipp Lahm to the left, bringing in Benedikt Hoewedes on the right and playing with Mats Hummels and Per Mertesacker as central defenders.
"This was a positive game for me," said the 52-year-old Loew, who has had to endure accusations he was not tough enough with his players and that his team was missing that one "alpha male" who could help them win a title.
"We had a team with lots of changes, a lot of key players missing but we stuck to our positions, we had discipline and worked very well in defence," Loew said.
"This was the most important thing for us after the Sweden game. We were courageous in the first half, going forward. It was more balanced in the second half but what is important is that we did not allow the Dutch many chances."
A loss would have been bad news for Loew as he seeks to instill a sense of optimism among success-starved German fans ahead of the World Cup in Brazil in less than two years time.
Defeat would have been even harder to swallow if it came against the Dutch, whom Germany beat 3-0 in a friendly last year and beat again, with a 2-1 victory in Kharkiv, in the group stage of the European champiopnships.
"You could see that no team was prepared to make that one mistake," said Germany keeper Manuel Neuer, who saw the return to the squad of Rene Adler, the first choice keeper before an injury prior to the 2010 World Cup installed Neuer.
Neuer has kept the spot ever since and his fine save midway through the second half should have won him some more points in their fight for the No.1 shirt.
"We were good at the back and neither team wanted to lose this game so it looked a bit rough. We wanted to go back with a positive result and the 0-0 is fine," Neuer said.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann)
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