Joachim Löw has several options against Portugal - which one will he choose?
Federico Gambarini / dpa
Press conferences before tournament games are often something like rabbits and hedgehogs. The media representatives take on the role of the rabbit. They tirelessly ask questions about the line-up, in always different words, but are always, as befits the rabbit, convinced of the victory - that is, reliable information about the starting XI. As a hedgehog, national coach Joachim Löw answers patiently, with a lot of cunning, and of course nobody dies in the end, but everyone is just as smart as before.
On the day before the second European Championship group game against Portugal (6 p.m. live ticker SPIEGEL.de; TV: ARD), a special kind of hedgehog hunt developed.
Loew has seldom been asked so much about tactics.
"We have to bring something else into play tactically," was one of his replies.
Or: "We have to be more dynamic ahead." Followed by: "The system plays no role in the tactical changes."
The mood at the DFB is tense
Now, a round like this almost 22 hours before a game, which will set the trend for the further course of the tournament and could possibly even be decisive for the evaluation of the entire Löw era, is not the right setting to seriously chat about tactics. The mood at the DFB is tense. After the bankruptcy against France, it was tirelessly emphasized how respectable and defensively stable the performance had been. Internally, and this also means the team, the 0: 1 is seen much more critically. Above all, it should have been about courage in the offensive game.
In a way, Löw is even right with his smoke candle on the system question. Of course, the 3-4-3, which has developed into his preferred basic formation, can be interpreted differently. How tall are the full-backs? What is the gap between defense and midfield? How do midfielders behave when in possession of the ball? How do the three strikers move? These are all topics that could change the German game against Portugal if implemented correctly.
And yet, of course, a system change can also lead to tactical changes.
Joshua Kimmich answered questions from the press after Löw.
The Munich man's position is increasingly becoming a political issue. After the defeat by France, SPIEGEL wrote: "Kimmich's problem: There is only one." Kimmich is both the best right-back and the best defensive midfielder in the squad.
He could also play outside in a back four, so another player would be free for midfield.
Löw first informs the players
Kimmich himself made it clear again where he would position himself. In the central midfield. As a full-back, it is "often the case that the game takes place away from you and you are supposedly without a job - even if that is of course not true," said the 26-year-old. “In the middle, you always get the impression that you can exert influence. You feel more involved than on the right-hand side - also when it comes to communication. You're always part of the game. "
That brings us back to the lineup. The trained hedgehog Löw referred to the tradition of wanting to talk to the players first and did not reveal any details. If you look at the tournament history of the national coach, personnel changes are unlikely. Löw is a fan of trusting a team and he usually gave them the chance to get used to it. Löw thinks too many changes are counterproductive, well-rehearsed teams have greater chances of success in his eyes.
In four tournaments (EM 2008 to WM 2014) Löw started the second game with exactly the same starting eleven as at the beginning.
In 2016, the previously ailing Mats Hummels returned for Shkodran Mustafi after beating Ukraine 2-0 in their first game against Poland.
The exception in a double sense is the 2018 World Cup, when Löw made four changes after the 0: 1 against Mexico.
It was Loew's first defeat in an opening game.
Against the world champion France, the second followed in Munich.
Does that make another major renovation more likely?
The 61-year-old's options are:
The security variant
Löw doesn't change anything.
Again a three-man chain, again Kimmich on the right, again Kai Havertz at the side of Thomas Müller and Serge Gnabry, again defensive stability before offensive power.
Seen soberly, the repetition of this discouraged plan could even work.
One point against Portugal plus a win against Hungary and the round of 16 would be booked.
But this is not how this team will reach its full potential.
The subtle variant
Löw changes a maximum of two positions.
Then it would stay with the basic formation and he would only try to set new impulses in nuances.
That should primarily affect the offensive, where Kai Havertz has not yet found his role and with Leroy Sané and Timo Werner push two players into the starting line-up.
"Against France there were too many returns, so the opponent was quickly behind the ball," said Löw.
The brave variant
Löw is not only changing the staff, he is also relying on a new system.
That would be the return to the back four and the 4-2-3-1.
For opponents and fans, it would be a signal that the team is thinking more offensively again and is aiming for second place in the table with a win (then England would be the likely opponent in the round of 16).
The list could then look like this:
Neuer - Kimmich, Hummels, Rüdiger, Gosens - Kroos, Gündogan - Gnabry, Müller, Havertz - Werner.
The Bayern variant
Löw becomes radical in the last few meters of his career and throws almost everything overboard.
The central idea would be to rely even more on a well-established Bayern block.
Kimmich would have to return to midfield for this, Leon Goretzka would start at his side.
The list could then look like this:
Neuer - Ginter, Hummels, Rüdiger, Gosens - Kimmich, Gündogan, Goretzka - Müller, Gnabry, Sané.
With the recently recovered Goretzka, Löw has already committed himself.
"I'm not planning on spending more than 90 minutes with him," he said.
"It's more of an alternative in the course of the game." This radical solution will not be available just because of Goretzka.
But it shows the great potential this team has.