Joachim Loew’s one blemish in an otherwise perfect World Cup qualification campaign came a year ago when Germany threw away a 4-0 lead against Sweden to draw 4-4.
They were the only points dropped by Germany, who sealed qualification for next year’s World Cup on Friday with a 3-0 win in Cologne over Ireland.
Now Germany will meet the Swedes again in Solna on Tuesday in their last group game with nothing at stake — Sweden is assured of a second place in Group H to go into the play-offs next month.
Loew though has a score to settle.
It hardly seemed possible that a German team would lose a 4-0 lead in the last half hour of a game, but a Zlatan Ibrahimovic-inspired comeback earned the Swedes a draw in Berlin. The Germans were left stunned and Loew full of self-reproach.
“I also couldn’t believe the game was turning. Maybe I could have sent out a signal by making a substitution, with a defensive man who could have provided some relief to the team,” Loew said at the time.
“I had also not experienced something like this in 20 years. I will learn from this.” Loew has now the chance to show the Swedes, who will now be without the suspended Ibrahimovic, they got lucky in Berlin.
It is also an opportunity to try something new.
With Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez injured, Loew played without an orthodox striker against Ireland, using midfielder Mesut Oezil — scorer of the last goal — in a more forward position.
Now there is likely to be an opportunity for Borussia Moenchengladbach striker Max Kruse, who has impressed since making his debut in May.
Loew has indicated a change or two — midfielder Sami Khedira is, in any case, suspended, but Bastian Schweinsteiger is set to earn his 100th cap.
The match can be seen as a first test ahead of the World Cup, with friendlies also coming up next month against Italy and England, if Roy Hodgson’s side is not involved in the play-offs.
The players were given the weekend off after Friday’s victory, but Loew says he has no doubts they will be be fully focused on Sweden. “We have full confidence in our players and know they will be going into this last match fully motivated,” he said.
“No one has forgotten the first game in which Sweden scored four goals in the second half.” Bayern Munich midfielder Thomas Mueller also dismissed talk of a “friendly”. “There are no friendly games, only test games. In any case it’s a qualifying match and there are points at stake. We want to win every game, otherwise we will be put through the mincer again.” Loew meanwhile is thought close to concluding talks on a two-year contract extension beyond next year’s World Cup finals.
The German football federation (DFB) is reportedly ready to report a new deal at the end of the week, and Loew told ZDF television’s Sportstudio Saturday he was “ready to do another two years if the World Cup goes well.” Loew also told Express newspaper on Sunday he realised that if Germany performed poorly and went out early at the World Cup it would lead to a change — “from my side and from the federation’s”.