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Halstenberg, Werner pass World Cup auditions in Germany draw at Wembley

Halstenberg, Werner pass World Cup auditions in Germany draw at Wembley
From ESPN - November 11, 2017

On one side of the pitch, you had a young team, cobbled together in an experimental starting XI, struggling to make an unfamiliar system work. On the other, a young team, cobbled together in an experimental starting XI, struggling to make an unfamiliar system work.

Both sets of players showed enough attacking intent to keep the Wembley crowd reasonably entertained -- especially in the first half -- but in the end, the combined problems were far too great to produce a classic encounter. England vs. Germany finished with the scoreline the match between these two flawed sides deserved: 0-0.

In light of the vastly superior quality at Joachim Low's disposal, the goalless draw in London felt like a disappointment for the 2014 World Cup winner but the Bundestrainer was in generous mood.

He praised Germany's fast attacking moves in the first half ("we did well, in spells") and gently warned that the transition game of the second half had lacked urgency and precision. "We will have to do better at the World Cup in that respect," the 57-year-old said.

The uneven performance could not have come as much of a surprise to him, for his somewhat capricious 3-4-3 lineup had been designed to provide a series of individual auditions rather than one coherent idea. Low was merely trying out some of his players on Friday night, not his team.

The game offered the Germany manager some useful pointers. Marcel Halstenberg, the RB Leipzig full-back, looked solid enough on his debut for the Nationalmannschaft to offer some hope that the perennial worries on the left side of defence might be eased, at last. "He was absolutely fine," Low said of the 26-year-old. "He stuck to his task well."

Halstenberg, a late bloomer who still played third-tier football in David Wagner's Borussia Dortmund B team four years ago, relished the chance to stake his claim on the vacant position. "I was surprised when I was told I would start the day before but I am very happy," he said.

Halstenberg did not always look entirely comfortable as a wing-back in Low's system -- he's happier in a back four -- but all of a sudden appears well poised to get on the plane to Russia.

Leipzig's Timo Werner will surely make the cut, too. The 21-year-old missed two one-on-ones in front of debutant England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, finishing weakly. "It's more important that they go in at the World Cup," he joked, aware that a leading role in Russia is basically guaranteed.

Werner's pace remains an invaluable asset, and the same is true of Manchester City's Leroy Sane, Germany's most-improved player of the last six months, thanks to Pep Guardiola's meticulous coaching. Sane is getting closer and closer to being an automatic starter but must ensure his work-rate and attitude adhere to Low's exacting standards.

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