Germany are open to the option of moving captain Philipp Lahm to full back where he excelled in the last two World Cups, assistant coach Andreas Koepke said on Wednesday. Responding to debate in Germany after Loew's team struggled to beat Algeria 2-1 in extra time in the last 16, Koepke said switching Lahm from midfield where he has failed to shine was a possibility.
"There is no doubt that Lahm is a super player as a right full back," Koepke told reporters at Germany's base camp in a resort on the Atlantic in north-eastern Brazil ahead of Friday's quarter-final against France. "It's not the case that we won't deviate from certain things if we feel they'll lead to success. We're not sticking stubbornly to our point of view," he added after many Germans, including Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere who is also the sports minister, have said Lahm is playing out of position.
Loew has started Lahm, 30, as holding midfielder in Germany's first four matches at the World Cup but he has played poorly to moderately, getting mainly negative marks in German media. Only after being switched to right back in an emergency due to an injury to Shkodran Mustafi late in the match against Algeria did Lahm impress German fans, the media and a long line of former players.
"As far as the public discussion in Germany goes, we're naturally discussing these things internally as well," said Koepke, who is the goalkeeper coach but spent much of his news conference answering questions about Lahm. "At the end of the day we have to do what we are convinced is the right thing to do. We've just got to see what's the best line-up against France."
Moving Lahm, one of the best right backs in the world, to midfield is part of Loew's grand strategy to start four tall centre backs with strong heading skills, a tactic increasingly criticised as cowardly after Germany have played such entertain football in recent years. There are no speedy full backs in the line-up and they had been a key part of Germany's attack.
Their absence was most glaring against Algeria when Mustafi on the right and Benedikt Hoewedes on the left had their worst matches of the tournament and failed to get forward to crack open a tight defence. What is also baffling is that Germany have a plethora of outstanding midfielders on the bench, including Lukas Podolski and Andre Schuerrle, but a dearth of top defenders.
Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer said he would also be happy to see Lahm return to the right back slot but was careful to avoid criticising his coach. "I'm happy when Philipp plays right back," said Neuer.
"He brings a lot of zip to our game. We're stronger offensively when he plays full back. But I feel comfortable when he's in the midfield. He can play both positions almost perfectly."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)