Germany struggle to recapture Euro 2008 form

BERLIN - Germany coach Joachim Loew admitted his side has suffered a drop in form since their Euro 2008 final defeat to Spain as the Germans look to make sure of their place in next year's World Cup.

BERLIN - Germany coach Joachim Loew admitted his side has suffered a drop in form since their Euro 2008 final defeat to Spain as the Germans look to make sure of their place in next year's World Cup.

Germany take on South Africa, who will host the 2010 World Cup, in a friendly next Saturday, before facing Azerbaijan in a Group Four qualifier on September 9, but Loew says his team is weaker than in the past.

"We have not always exploited our potential in recent games like I had imagined we would," Loew told Sunday newspaper Die Welt.

His side is fourth in the Fifa world rankings behind Brazil, Spain and the Netherlands.

"We have not always been convincing and we must find the way to recapture our form," Loew said.

"This year we have not dominated our opponents, that has been one of our weak points.

"We must work to make sure the opposition are constantly under pressure and are forced into errors."

Since losing the Euro final to Spain in June last year Germany suffered rare consecutive home defeats over the winter when England won 2-1 last November in Berlin and then they slumped to a shock 1-0 defeat to Norway in February.

Since then unconvincing wins over Wales and Azerbaijan, plus a 1-1 draw with China, have done little to boost Loew's confidence with his side facing Russia in Moscow in October where victory would take his team to South Africa.

Germany top Group Four with a four-point lead over Russia, who have a game in hand, but Loew insists his aim is to win the group to claim a guaranteed place in South Africa.

But Loew admits it has been hard to keep his side at the same level they reached in June 2008 on their way to the Euro final.

"It is not easy to stay at the same level for several years, but I am sure we will reach those levels again and our supporters' enthusiasm will return," said Loew, who took over as Germany's coach in July 2006. - Sapa-AFP

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