Former world champions face current holders

    New faces
    Low has called up three uncapped players to his latest squad: Kai Havertz, Nico Schulz and Thilo Kehrer. Havertz is arguably the most promising of the three. At the age of only 18 years and 307 days, the Bayer Leverkusen playmaker has just become the youngest player ever to chalk up 50 appearances in the German Bundesliga. His nose for goal and gift for providing assists make him a significant threat to opposing defences.

    Three years Havertz’s senior, centre-back Kehrer has just signed for Paris Saint-Germain. Dependable on the ground, solid in the air and quick with his reactions, he can also slot in at right-back. That kind of versatility will do his international prospects no harm, whatsoever.

    Hoffenheim left-back Schulz is an enterprising player and a fine crosser of the ball, two qualities that are essential in his position. Now 25, he is at the peak of his powers.

    In analysing what went wrong in Russia, Low underlined the need for Germany to focus less on possession and attacking. A largely reshuffled side adopted a much more cautious approach at last year’s Confederations Cup, with Low employing a 3-4-2-1 formation. While it remains to be seen if he will revert to that approach on Thursday, there can be no question that the Germans will have to tread carefully against a France side that has mastered the art of the counter-attack to perfection.

    “We’re coming up against opposition of the very highest quality,” acknowledged Low. While a fresh setback could further weaken his position, victory over the new world champions would be seen as a hugely encouraging sign.