Flexibility is the name of the game as Germany set marker
By Karolos Grohmann
EVIAN, France (Reuters) - Germany coach Joachim Loew has not used the same starting 11 in any of his team's four matches at the Euro 2016 so far and is unlikely to do so in their quarter-final clash with either holders Spain or Italy.
The world champions cruised past Slovakia 3-0 on Sunday, playing their most attractive football yet in the tournament and staking a claim for a fourth European title.
"There is not one single team," Loew said, after dropping Mario Goetze in favour of a speedy Julian Draxler, who scored one goal and set up another in the game.
"I do not know who will play in the next game. We have to wait and see because with either Spain or Italy we will be facing a team of a completely different calibre."
Loew has been tinkering with a starting lineup for months but the injuries of Marco Reus and Ilkay Guendogan, among other, prior to the tournament forced him to abandon hopes of fielding his ideal team in France.
He now looks to have embraced the concept of flexibility as Germany are within a game from a sixth consecutive semi-final spot in a major tournament.
The decision to start Draxler paid off as did his choice of striker, Mario Gomez, in their final group match against Northern Ireland with the forward grabbing the winner.
Even his earlier shifting in the central defence with Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Benedikt Hoewedes and Shkodran Mustafi brought results as Germany have yet to concede a goal.
"Starting 11? It is difficult to say if there is one," said Boateng. "It depends a bit on the opponent and how the coach wants us to play. That is why we have different player types."
Critics back in Germany saw Gomez' return to the team after two years as a step back.
The 30-year-old had missed their 2014 World Cup run through injury and his international career looked over as Loew opted to mostly use attacking midfielder Goetze as a striker in the past two years.
However, Gomez rekindled Loew's interest this season when he topped the Turkish league scorers' list and has continued his run at the Euro, also netting once against Slovakia.
With an abundance of talent and options on the bench that other teams can only dream of, Loew may continue playing the flexibility card as he shifts and tweaks his lineup on his way to the title.
(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)