Berlin: Germany coach Joachim Loew has said his side must mature in the wake of their drab goalless draw with neighbours Netherlands as they look to challenge for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
After eight of his first-choice players withdrew or missed out through injury, Loew's make-shift team were held to a drab draw against the Dutch at Amsterdam Arena on Wednesday with neither side seemingly willing to take risks.
A first-half half chance for Holland's Arjen Robben, a saved fierce drive by Eljero Elia and a late chance by Nigel de Jong were all the Dutch could muster, while Germany barely threatened the Holland goal after a few first-half chances.
But the Germans were happy to keep Holland scoreless after Loew's side leaked four goals in a disastrous last 30 minutes against Sweden in Berlin last month to draw 4-4 in their World Cup qualifier.
Loew admits 2012 has been the toughest of his six-year tenure as head coach after Germany's lack of leadership was exposed in the Euro 2012 semi-final defeat to Italy, then again against Sweden.
"When we have stuck to our playing style, we had no problems," said Loew, when asked to sum up 2012, with his team top of their World Cup qualifying group.
"But when we came away from that, we ran into difficulties.
"This team has an awful lot of potential, but still needs to mature."
Despite plenty of criticism surrounding the logic of playing a friendly in November, Loew argued the case that it gave him a chance to look at alternative combinations against quality opposition.
"I have already said that it makes a lot of sense to play a strong opponent," he said.
"I have learnt a lot and when you are missing eight regulars, it's a good opportunity to give others the chance to prove themselves at this level.
"It has shown that we have good alternatives."
Loew said the team had learnt the lessons from the Sweden debacle when panic spread and the team resorted to playing long balls in a bid to break the relentless waves of Swedish attacks.
"This time, I only saw one or two long balls, against Sweden we hit 25 to 30 of them in the final phase alone, all of which we then lost," he said.
"If we had played like that against Sweden, we wouldn't have got into so much trouble.
"This time we didn't lose our calm and had things in balance."
Germany's next game is a friendly in Paris against France on February 6 followed by World Cup qualifiers home and away against Kazakhstan in March before a two-match tour of the United States in May and June.
Story first published on: Friday, 16 November 2012 00:19 IST