FRANKFURT, Germany — Having lost to Spain in the last two major tournaments, Germany coach Joachim Loew has spent months thinking of how to beat the world and European champions.
Judging by Germany's 3-0 dismissal of the Netherlands, he may have found a solution.
The Netherlands is officially the No. 2 team in the world after finishing runner-up to Spain at the 2010 World Cup. But the Dutch looked simply outclassed by the Germans in their friendly on Tuesday.
"They really had no chance," said midfielder Mesut Oezil, who scored one goal in the match in Hamburg.
Although the Germans won all 10 of their qualifying matches and were also losing finalists at the 2008 European Championship, they won't be seeded for Euro 2012 when the draw is conducted next month. The Dutch will be though, along with Spain and the two hosts, Poland and Ukraine.
Were it not for there being two hosts, Germany surely would have been seeded. Now, it could find itself in a group with Spain or the Netherlands.
So, despite the impressive qualifying campaign, a 3-2 win over Brazil in August and the rout of the Netherlands, Loew is cautious when he speaks about next year's tournament in Poland and Ukraine.
"It's a long half-year away and things can look different then ... A lot can change in football. Whether we manage (to maintain the good form) — that, of course, is the question," Loew said after the match in Hamburg.
Germany delighted fans around the world with its attacking football at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, only to be stopped by Spain in the semifinals.
Loew says his team has since improved.
"We've managed to make our game more consistent. There are fewer shifts in performance than in previous years. And we have more depth in our squad, we have integrated young players into the team and we are able to create more pressure against defensive teams," Loew said.
Loew got rid of former captain Michael Ballack and several older players and brought in emerging stars like 19-year-old Borussia Dortmund midfielder Mario Goetze. With Real Madrid's Sami Khedira and Oezil, plus Bayern Munich's improving Toni Kroos, Germany has a highly creative midfield.
Loew says Spain can't be defeated by only demonstrating aggressiveness and great defense.
"Such teams can be beaten by matching them on the playing level" — with flair and skill, Loew told the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper this week.
That's what Loew's team showed against the Dutch.
"Germany are unbelievably strong at recovering the ball. They could do it before but now they can play football, too," Netherlands coach Bert Van Marwijk said.
One veteran Loew has retained is 33-year-old striker Miroslav Klose, now with Lazio. Klose scored one goal and set up the other two against the Netherlands.
Mario Gomez, Bundesliga's top scorer last season and leading again this campaign, found himself on the bench as Loew returned to his preferred formation with four backs and one striker.
Unlike Gomez's up-and-down performances for the national team, Klose has been a model of consistency across the years. The Polish-born Klose is five goals short of Gerd Mueller's record of 68 and could reach the milestone at next year's tournament.
"Miro showed again how valuable he is for the team," Loew said. "He is always there when you need him, he is always in the best possible condition in the national team."
Loew had been toying with the idea of trying out a formation with two strikers but at the end decided to go with the system that seems to suit his team the best.
Germany finished 2011 with nine wins, three draws and a loss — in a friendly against Australia — for its best yearly record since 1997.
Those who have forgotten Franz Beckenbauer's generation believe this could the best Germany team ever. Loew is more modest.
"We had strong teams in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, but this is strongest team of the past decade," he said.