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Germany's young players indicate bright future ahead

BERLIN (AP) — Germany's young players did enough in one hour against Argentina to indicate its post-World Cup shakeup is working and that a bright future awaits. Led by 24-year-old Serge Gnabry, with 20-year-old Kai Havertz driving from midfield, Germany initially overwhelmed the visitors on Wednesday before inexperience showed and substitutes Lucas Alario and Lucas Ocampos salvaged a 2-2 draw for Argentina in a friendly.

"We let our heads drop after they scored the first goal," Germany coach Joachim Löw said. "But I'm taking many positives from the game and have to pay the team a compliment for playing with such courage and heart. They were very, very promising signs. I like that a lot."

It was the first time Germany started without a World Cup winner since it claimed the trophy in 2014. Löw had already signaled a shakeup after the disastrous World Cup in 2018 and forced the likes of Sami Khedira, Jérôme Boateng, Thomas Müller and Mats Hummels into early retirement.

Löw had to improvise against Argentina because of a slew of injuries. Marco Reus and Ilkay Gündogan remained on the bench with knocks. Defenders Jonathan Tah and Niklas Stark dropped out before the match, joining Toni Kroos, Timo Werner, Jonas Hector, Antonio Rüdiger, Leon Goretzka, Kevin Trapp, Nico Schulz, Leroy Sané, Julian Draxler and Thilo Kehrer on Löw's list of absentees. Löw has been resisting calls to bring Hummels back.

Captained by 24-year-old Joshua Kimmich for the first time, Germany controlled the first half, combining quickly with short passes and constant movement, forcing the bewildered visitors to lose possession and chase the game. Paulo Dybala, who plays for Juventus, was inconspicuous before making way for Alario in the 62nd minute.

"The first half was really good, it was eye-catching. Some players who were there for the first time did really well," said Löw, who handed debuts to Freiburg teammates Luca Waldschmidt and Robin Koch.

"Koch was very stable, confident, he gave a good impression and didn't show any nervousness," said Löw, who also praised Waldschmidt. "Some took their opportunity very well. I'm happy about that, it gives me more options."

Gnabry, who scored four goals for Bayern Munich in a 7-2 rout of Tottenham recently, was a constant threat before his substitution in the second half. Gnabry beat three defenders to scorein the 15th, then set up Havertz for the second in the 22nd.

"He's so fast and he made so many unbelievable runs. He was everywhere and always a danger. He put off the whole Argentine defense," Löw said of the Bayern forward, who now has 10 goals in 11 games for Germany.

Löw also handed debuts to Nadiem Amiri and Suat Serdar, though the team was backpedaling by then and neither was able to shine. "We had to work a lot in defense, but their strengths are going forward," Löw said. "But we can be satisfied. They're players with promise that we can look forward to."

Marc-André ter Stegen played in goal in place of regular No. 1 Manuel Neuer, but the Bayern goalkeeper will return for the European Championship qualifier against Estonia in Tallinn on Sunday. "Estonia is a whole other type of opponent," Löw said. "They hold back more and principally focus on defending their goal. So we'll need another offensive player on the field. I could imagine Marco Reus. And if Ilkay is fit, he'll play, too."

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Ciarán Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP

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