Munich - A New Year, a new-look team but the same, positive direction for Germany under Joachim Löw. After Wednesday evening’s encouraging 2-1 victory over France in Paris, the 51-year-old coach had plenty to be positive about.
It may not have been quite the performance Löw had been hoping for, but the result - Germany's first success in France for 78 years - was further evidence of the national team's growing confidence.
“We were the better team by quite some margin," said Löw after the match. "Games like this show that friendly matches can still be a real test."
Indeed, the opportunity to pit themselves against one of world football's heavyweights was an important yardstick for the three-time world champions. Despite going behind to Mathieu Valbuena’s sloppy opener for the hosts shortly before the interval, Löw experimental ensemble showed excellent character to recover, with second-half goals from FC Bayern Munich's Thomas Müller and Real Madrid CF star Sami Khedira ultimately securing the victory.
Break from the norm
Löw will have been pleased with the results of his various experiments. FC Schalke 04 defender Benedikt Höwedes warmed to the unfamiliar position of left-back, while the decision to play the final half an hour without a recognised striker on the field - Bayern midfielder Toni Kroos replaced clubmate Mario Gomez on on 57 minutes - provided further evidence of the squad's evolutionary nature.
In fact, the Spain-inspired move gave Germany added fluidity in attack and made them far less predictable. The winning goal was a perfect example, as Sami Khedira burst into the box from defensive midfield and slotted under Hugo Lloris for the match-winning goal.
The performance of Khedira's partner in front of the defence, Ilkay Gündogan, was further cause of optimism. Tidy in possession, tough in the challenge and provider of the assist for Müller's equaliser, the Borussia Dortmund star looked every bit at home on the international stage as he does week-in, week-out for his club.
“I just tried to reproduce my good [club] form for the national team," said Gündogan. "It’s a lot of fun playing against a side like France. Those are the teams we need to test ourselves against." The former 1. FC Nuremberg midfielder had 111 touches of the ball, more than any other German player by a distance, and was singled out for praise by Löw for his "assuredness in possession and aggressive commitment".
Room for improvement
As ever, there was room for improvement in Löw's eyes. In his post-match interview the Bundestrainer highlighted the breakdown of various attacks due to a sloppy final pass, but with options aplenty up front, Germany are certainly in good stead with a view to next month's 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying double-header against Kazakhstan.