Unimpressive Germany beats S. Arabia 2-1 in World Cup warmup
LEVERKUSEN, Germany (AP) — Defending World Cup champion Germany defeated Saudi Arabia 2-1 on Friday for a timely but unimpressive win just over a week before its title defense begins in Russia.
Having failed to win any of its previous five friendly games since wrapping up qualification with a perfect 10 wins from 10 matches, Germany was keen to deliver a statement four days before the side leaves for its tournament base in Moscow, especially after last Saturday's lackluster 2-1 defeat to Austria.
But Joachim Loew's side again failed to shine and had to rely on Mats Hummels denying Mohammad Al-Sahlawi an injury-time equalizer.
"We squandered many chances and allowed many chances today. We were even lucky in the end," the Germany coach said.
Loew remained optimistic, however.
"I'm not worried because I know that we're going to keep improving. We'll be ready when (the World Cup) starts," Loew said. "We'll be quicker and more dynamic with more power next week."
Loew started his strongest available side. Mesut Ozil, who is laboring with a knee injury, was left out with Julian Draxler of Paris Saint-Germain taking the Arsenal midfielder's place.
Timo Werner fired the home side into an early lead after Marco Reus cut the ball back. It was one-way play thereafter, though the visitors did create some chances as the home side relaxed before the break.
"We gave away too many chances against a relatively weak opponent," Toni Kroos said.
Just when it seemed there might be an equalizer, Werner crossed for Omar Hawsawi to turn the ball into his own net under pressure from Thomas Mueller.
There was little of note in a sterile second half, apart from whistles from the home fans for Ilkay Gundogan following his entrance before the hour mark. Gundogan appeared to have incurred wrath for posing with Ozil - another player with Turkish roots - for photos with Turkey president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in London last month.
Loew gestured to supporters for applause but only some heeded his appeal.
"For a national player to be whistled - that helps nobody," the coach said after the game.
The impressive Abdullah Al-Mayouf - he made several saves to frustrate the home side - denied Gundogan just minutes after he came on. Al-Mayouf's mentor, former Germany goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, was watching from the stands.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who came on for Manuel Neuer at the break, saved a late penalty from Al-Sahlawi but Taisir Al-Jassim followed up on the rebound.
The result arguably does more for Saudi Arabia's hopes than Germany. Juan Antonio Pizzi's side opens the tournament against host Russia in Moscow on Thursday. Germany kicks off its title defense against Mexico three days later.