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Football | Germany

Germany held by dogged Dutch defence



Holland were held to a goalless draw by neighbours Germany in Wednesday's international friendly with both injury-hit teams fielding make-shift sides after a raft of withdrawals.

With both nations top of their respective World Cup qualifying groups, an experimental theme ran through both line-ups at Amsterdam Arena, but there was little to light up a dull encounter.

With Germany having beaten Holland 2-1 in their group stage clash at Euro 2012 and the Dutch having lost 3-0 in Hamburg last November in a friendly, the Dutch were well placed to take advantage of a weakened Germany.

But the hosts failed to take their chance for a first win over the Germans since November 2002.

"The Germans were dominant in the first half, but we managed to get back control of the game after the break," said Dutch coach Louis van Gaal.

"We had just as many chances as them in the second half.

"We didn't always have the ball under control in the first half and there were a few mistakes."

Van Gaal opted to give Ajax goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer his debut while Fenerbahce striker Dirk Kuyt captained the Netherlands.

The Germany-based trio of Arjen Robben, Rafael van der Vaart and Ibrahim Afellay led a strong forward line, with Schalke 04 striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar surprisingly left on the bench while both Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder are injured.

"Huntelaar didn't play because we wanted to look at our options up front," explained Van Gaal.

"The conversation was difficult when I told him, but it will remain between us what was said."

Likewise, Germany coach Joachim Loew, who was missing eight key players, opted to start midfielder Mario Goetze as a striker leading a youthful attack ahead of Thomas Mueller, Lewis Holtby and Marco Reus, the eldest at 23.

With stars Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira unavailable, Loew fielded Borussia Dortmund's Ilkay Gundagon and Lars Bender in the defensive midfield.

Only four of the team survived from the Germany line-up which drew 4-4 with Sweden in last month's World Cup qualifier having thrown away a four-goal lead -- the first time that had happened in the country's 104-year history.

"For me, this game was positive," said Loew.

"We had a changed team, with many regulars missing, but we kept our shape and discipline, that was important after the last game against Sweden.

"In the first-half, we had the courage to play forward.

"It was more balanced after the break, but it was important that we didn't give Holland many chances."

Both sides squandered first-half chances: Goetze was denied from close-range by Vermeer after a mix-up in the Dutch defence, while only desperate defending stopped Robben capitalising when a Afellay pass put him through.

Van Gaal brought on fresh legs at half-time with three changes including Eljero Elia for Robben while Feyenoord pair Daryl Janmaat and Stefan de Vrij were given more experience with only a handful of caps between them.

Loew waited until the final 20 minutes before bringing on Arsenal's Lukas Podolski for Goetze to try to break the deadlock, while AC Milan's Urby Emanuelson replaced Van der Vaart.

Only a fine save from Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer with 76 minutes gone denied Elia's fierce strike which was heading to the bottom right-hand corner.

Loew kept things in the family late on as Sven Bender came on for his twin brother Lars and the Dortmund midfielder was quickly called into action to help deny AC Milan's Nigel de Jong in the dying stages.

The echo of whistles and booes around the stadium summed up a frustrating night for fans and players alike.

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