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Players and coach rally behind "a good spirit" following Switzerland shootout

By Peter Weis   @PeterVicey

Joachim Löw's Nationalelf conclude the season's second international break technically undefeated. In what constituted a inverted case of what the team had been struggling with recently, the national team actually came from behind on three separate occasions on Tuesday evening's 3-3 draw with Switzerland.

As the delayed European Championship draws closer, all the quotes from all the relevant actors move toward the non-negotiable expectations Germans have for their football team in major international tournaments:

Attain the semi-finals. Period.
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Photo: Steffen Prößdorf, CC BY-SA 4.0
Players and coach exchanged words with reporters as Germany's Nationalelf officially broke camp following the third and final match of the international break. Bundestrainer Jogi Löw, having spent most of the week taking a beating in the country's press for his three-back tactical constellation, rolled out a more traditional 4-2-3-1 in the fixture.

Robin Gosens and Lukas Klostermann functioned more as traditional fullbacks, flanking the center-back pairing of Antonio Rüdiger and Matthias Ginter. The deployment served as the first time Löw used a back-four since a November 2019 European Championship Qualifying match against Northern Ireland.

The national debate over Löw's back-three raged on long before the first two of this break's fixtures. Practically every German football fan had a strong opinion. Germany's Bundestrainer deflected questions as to whether his latest construct was in any way related to the deluge of criticism.

"It will be favorable for us to learn and improve in both systems," Löw told public broadcaster ARD after the match, "One can't always play in a single system."

Löw acknowledged that he had tactically "risked a lot" against Switzerland, yet stopped short of saying that he had sacrificed his preferred sweeper, Niklas Süle, to give the starting XI more punch.

"Niklas [Süle] is a very important player," he emphasized, "We have to be careful after his ACL tear [from last year]. Ordinarily, he its a player who will always be used."

Löw refused to take a chastising tone with his players for the many defensive errors. Instead, he lauded the team for showing a "good spirit" in coming back and playing particularly good football towards the end. In post match interviews, Joshua Kimmich, Manuel Neuer, and Kai Havertz all used the same phrase.

Only midfield talisman Toni Kroos, who reached a special milestone by earning his 100th international cap, sounded more subdued when speaking into the ARD microphones.

"Those who know me are aware that I'm more concerned with results than numbers," Kroos said. He also declared himself "dissatisfied" with the point.

Havertz noted that the team "would not be diverted from its forward path" while Neuer added "we won't be giving up and are now looking ahead." Kimmich called the match "A step in the right direction" and a "better performance than the one against Ukraine".

Löw himself took the opportunity to directly address the non-negotiable expectation that the German public maintains for its national team in each and every major international tournament.

"Of course, the semi-finals of the European Championship is the minimal goal."

A man in charge of the Nationalmannschaft for 14 years knows that such a statement cannot be reiterated enough.

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