No alarm bells despite Germany youth setback

The image of Germany's much-praised youth system was dented this week when the country's Under-21 team completed a poor European showing for their junior squads, but officials say there are no alarm bells ringing.

Tournament favourites Germany went out of the European Championship in Israel with two consecutive defeats before a futile 2-1 victory over also-eliminated Russia on Wednesday in their final group game.

Germany's Under-19 and Under-17 teams failed to even qualify for their European Championships.

The Under-19s managed only one win in three games of the final qualifying round, losing 1-0 to the Netherlands earlier this week as they failed to make the cut.

The Under-17s did marginally better but still lost out to Ukraine by a point for a spot in the tournament.

Only weeks ago the world of football was singing Germany's praises after Bayern Munich beat Borussia Dortmund in a high-quality all-German Champions League final.

With German football booming on all levels - sporting and financial - in the past few seasons, the recent results did put a dampener on enthusiasm.

Germany had won the Under-21 and the Under-17 European titles in 2009 to add to their Under-19 European crown in 2008, though the Under-19 team failed to qualify again since.

Many of the current senior players played for every junior team as products of the country's new youth system.

For current Under-21 coach Rainer Adrion, who was given the federation's backing this week, the failure was down to some missing players.

MAJOR ABSENTEES

Germany senior internationals Ilkay Gündogan, Julian Draxler and Andre Schürrle were eligible for the Under-21 team but national team coach Joachim Löw opted instead to take them with him on a USA tour earlier this month in preparation for next year's World Cup in Brazil.

"Such a [European] tournament has top teams and this is something that needs to be taken into consideration if you want to have success on European level," Adrion told reporters in a veiled criticism of Löw, who has insisted success of the senior team must always be the top priority.

The German football association (DFB) said the country's youth system should not be called into question.

"There are no alarm bells ringing with us," said DFB President Wolfgang Niersbach after the Under-21's shock elimination this week. "But we will process all this calmly."

Germany's 10-year-old youth programme was created after bad results at international tournaments in 1998 and 2000.

After Germany's four consecutive semi-final appearances at major tournaments since 2006 and after feeding Bundesliga clubs with talent, it is now being held up as a shining example of successful grassroots work with the Champions League final in London's Wembley in May being its crowning moment.

More than 700 million euros has been pumped in to the youth system nationwide since 2002.

Germany's Under-18 coach Horst Hrubesch, who led a star-studded Under-21 team to the European title in 2009 with players such as Manuel Neuer, Mesut Ozil, Mats Hummels and Sami Khedira, said there was no crisis.

"We cannot just change routes in a day if it does not go according to play sometimes," he told reporters.

"What has been done in the past decade is the right way and it should not only depend on titles or tournaments."


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