LONDON (Reuters) - When Thomas Mueller charged through but missed with only the keeper to beat, seconds after England had gone 1-0 up in their Euro 2020 last-16 game on Tuesday, it was indicative of Germany's current state of affairs.
In what turned out to be Loew's last game on the Germany bench after 15 years in charge, the defeat, and second consecutive early tournament exit, highlighted the need for his successor Hansi Flick to get back to the drawing board.
The Germans fell behind in all four matches they played while also struggling to score, apart from in their emphatic win over Portugal, their best game of the tournament.
But inconsistency has become a recent German trademark, triggering questions about whether Loew should have gone much earlier.
Loew took over Germany in 2006, led them to the Euro 2008 final, won the 2014 World Cup and the 2017 Confederations Cup in a hugely successful spell.
Loew started an overhaul following their shock first round exit at the 2018 World Cup and their disappointing Nations League campaign that year, dropping several world champions including Mueller and Mats Hummels.
Yet his team's transformation stuttered, with the pandemic disrupting the process, and then a string of bad results including a 6-0 loss to Spain in November and a 2-1 home loss to North Macedonia earlier this year, forcing Loew to rethink his tournament strategy.
He made a U-turn and recalled Mueller and Hummels just before Euro 2020 but the move did not pay off.
Hummels scored an own goal in their opening group loss to France while Mueller could not strengthen their attacking punch, failing to score at the Euros once more, having now played 15 European Championship games without a goal.
Yet some of Germany's younger, more promising players also failed to deliver, with Leroy Sane a shadow of his former self and Serge Gnabry, operating as a striker, not getting on the scoresheet in any game.
"We have had problems since 2018 and we did not succeed in fine-tuning the team and have an automation in our game in the tournament," Loew said.
"With all the difficulties in the past two, three years it has still been a learning process. We lacked efficiency, being more clinical, maybe some maturity."
"Some of these players, however, will develop and learn from this and maybe at our home Euro (in 2024) they will be at top level."
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Toby Davis)