With three games in seven days — following an already daunting club schedule for most of his squad — Germany manager Joachim Löw was always going to have to be smart in managing his players during this international break.
Consistency be damned, this round of FIFA World Cup qualifiers was going to be more about surviving the schedule than it was going to be about outlasting the opposition. As much as that was obvious to nearly everyone observing this week-long excursion, it must have slipped by Löw, who made only two starting line-up changes in the three games — despite several of his starters either suffering knocks or recently recovering from injuries.
Instead of using a heavy rotation or even early substitutions, Löw rode his starters hard during a season that has already been physically taxing to most — and subsequently paid the price with a brutal 2-1 loss at the hands of North Macedonia.
“The disappointment is huge after this game. We were just tired today, too. We didn’t have the freshness in the actions, we made too many mistakes in the game forward,” said Löw (as captured by the DFB). “Whenever we played quickly, we could become dangerous. The opponent sat deep, but we didn’t find any solutions to it. Overall, it was disappointing.”
It sure was.