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Germany’s disappointing year finally comes to an end

November 20, 2018
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Germany's head coach Joachim Loew looks up during the UEFA Nations League soccer match between Germany and The Netherlands in Gelsenkirchen, Monday, Nov. 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany (AP) — Finally, the year is over for Germany.

The 2014 World Cup champions, who failed to even make it out of the group stage at this year’s tournament in Russia, ended their disappointing campaign with a thud, conceding two late goals in a 2-2 draw with the Netherlands.

Even before the match started, Germany had already been relegated from the top tier in the UEFA Nations League.

“That was a reflection of 2018,” Germany forward Timo Werner said of the team’s late collapse against the Netherlands. “You could see it was working but at the end we couldn’t get the reward. We need to cross off 2018 and do everything better next year.”

Germany started the year hoping to defend its World Cup title. But early losses to Mexico and South Korea sent the four-time champions home ahead of schedule. Mesut Ozil then quit the national team soon after, citing “racism and disrespect” from German society because of his Turkish roots.

Few coaches could survive a year like that, but Joachim Loew is no ordinary coach.

Loew been in charge since 2006 and has shaped the careers of players like Thomas Mueller, who made his 100th appearance on Monday — all of them under Loew.

He was also fortunate to sign a four-year contract extension in May, a month before the World Cup debacle, and his focus is on the 2020 European Championship despite a “Loew out” banner in the stands on Monday.

Loew has called 2018 “a slap in the face,” but said Germany will soon see the benefits of a post-World Cup rebuild. Key to that, he said, will be Leroy Sane, a player left out of the World Cup team despite being named Premier League young player of the year.

“Leroy has learned a lot from not being nominated for the World Cup,” Loew said. “We can’t rebuild the team overnight.”

There’s no doubt that Germany has depth after winning the 2017 Confederations Cup and European under-21 championship in the same week. The problem so far has been refining that pool of players into a coherent team.

At times on Monday, Germany looked like its old self, with the forward trio of Werner, Sane and Serge Gnabry combining for both goals. However, Loew used all three of his substitutions to replace them with Mueller, Marco Reus and Leon Goretzka.

Without any fresh legs at the back, the defense failed to mark Dutch scorers Quincy Promes and Virgil van Dijk.

Loew said he still hasn’t found his preferred lineup.

“It’s a long process. I’m also no clairvoyant and don’t know what will happen in March (when European Championship qualifying begins),” Loew said in comments published on the German soccer federation website. “We have a lot of potential and that gives you a lot of courage for next year.”

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