BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany coach Joachim Loew said the team's demise in 2018 was unexpected but part of a normal cycle in sport and he is now focussed on what the former world champions need to do to rise again.
Germany face the Netherlands on Monday in their last Nations League group game, having already been relegated, and are looking to cap a terrible year with a good performance.
They started the year as reigning world champions and overwhelming favourites to retain the World Cup in Russia.
Yet they exited the tournament at their earliest stage in 80 years and are heading into 2019 after a German-record six defeats so far within a calendar year.
Another blow was delivered on Friday when the Dutch beat France to guarantee Germany's relegation in the inaugural Nations League competition.
"We now want to say goodbye (to 2018) with a good performance and show the fans that we are on the right track to recovery," Loew told a news conference.
"We had a decade of rising to the top and there sometimes can be a year where nothing works," said the German.
"It was something completely new for me. Now we have reached a phase where we have to renew things, improve, start from scratch. We need to draw the right conclusions and take the right measures."
Loew started several youngsters in their 3-0 friendly win over Russia on Thursday, as he looks to gradually transform his team to depend less on the core of players who won the 2014 World Cup.
He dropped central defender Jerome Boateng for the two games and left fellow world champions Thomas Mueller and Mats Hummels on the bench.
"If you think you can be in the top four in the world for over 20 years then you don't understand football. It is just like life. Sometimes you have to start lower down. We were the top team for a long time," said Loew, who has been in charge since 2006.
On Monday he will likely be without in-form winger Marco Reus, who is nursing a minor injury that also ruled him out against Russia.
"I still don't know if he will play," Loew said. "The decision will be taken tonight or tomorrow. We will see."
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Toby Davis)