Want a measure of Germany’s strength? The man who put the trophy etchers to work with that extra-time goal four years ago, Mario Gotze, is not even in the squad. And no one in the country will care a jot.
Gotze’s horrendous injury troubles this past season left him skulking alongside exiled Manchester City’s PFA Young Player of the Year Leroy Sane at the end of a long line of German talent other nations are looking at with envious eyes.
At 22 in 2014, Gotze was meant to be emblematic of a bright German future when the backbone of Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Miroslav Klose finally called it a day.
But whether it’s old legends retiring, or new stars fading, under long-time coach Joachim Low there is a system in place in which the ‘next man up’ can be seamlessly slipped into. And there’s a heck of a lot of those men.
The Bayern Munich-bound Leon Goretzka, a taller, more physical talent in attacking midfield, is the new playmaker in vogue – though he’ll do well to elbow Mesut Ozil out of the team. Then there’s Timo Werner, the RB Leipzig striker who offers a quality Germany have seldom had at No9 – pace.
Indeed, considering household names such as Ozil, Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos are hardly old men in their late 20s, you’ll not find any warhorses
clinging onto their spots.
That’s not to say Low and Co just have to turn up to retain the trophy. Inspirational skipper and keeper Manuel Neuer has broken his foot three times in one season and Jerome Boateng was also a late injury scare. The thought of Marc-Andre ter Stegen between the sticks won’t be keeping Low up at night – though Neuer made the squad – but the defensive depth behind Boateng may do.
Alongside Mats Hummels, 22-year-old Niklas Sule was generally superb for Bayern Munich last season though if one of those two go down they’re left with the relative inexperience of Antonio Rudiger and Jonathan Tah.
Still, these are all nice problems to have. Low has also made full use of friendlies, a perfect qualification campaign and last year’s Confederations Cup cakewalk to blood the ‘back-ups’.
The only danger posed to them by a kind group containing Mexico, Sweden and South Korea is that they’ll be undercooked by the knockout stages.
Don’t count on it – you can never count out the Germans.
Precious few midfielders marry majestic passing, vision, tactical awareness and a knockout-winning pedigree – in fact there may only be one. Though Kroos has had his ups and downs with Real Madrid this season, expect him to play conductor to Germany’s symphony once again.
One of the most successful international managers of all-time, the 58-year-old is the reason why Germany are associated with attacking dynamism. His sides can both control possession and up the tempo at will.
Talk about putting your foot in it. Die Mannschaft’s iconic shot-stopper missed almost the entire season for Bayern Munich due to a reoccurring foot injury. Germany have quality back-ups but none radiate with quite the same aura.
It could so easily have been Leon Goretzka here but a rocket-fuelled Werner is likely to start as lone frontman. The RB Leipzig striker, 22, is lightning across the turf and scored seven goals from his first 10 caps
KEY FACTS AND STATS
30 – World Cup goals scored by Miroslav Klose and Gerd Muller combined. They place first and third respectively on the all-time list.
22 – Germany’s unbeaten streak before Brazil exacted some revenge for their 7-1 thumping at the 2014 World Cup by beating them in a friendly in March.
2.2 – goals per game scored over the last four World Cups (62 goals in 28 matches).
85 DEF 85 MID 85 ATT
World Cups competed at
19 (first in 1934)
World Cup record
P106, W66, D20, L20
Champions (1954, 1974, 1990, 2014)
Goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona), Kevin Trapp (Paris St-Germain).
Defenders: Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich), Matthias Ginter (Borussia Monchengladbach), Jonas Hector (Cologne), Mats Hummels (Bayern Munich), Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich), Marvin Plattenhardt (Hertha Berlin), Antonio Rudiger (Chelsea), Niklas Sule (Bayern Munich).
Midfielders: Julian Brandt (Bayer Leverkusen), Julian Draxler (Paris St-Germain), Leon Goretska (Schalke), Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City), Sami Khedira (Juventus), Toni Kroos (Real Madrid), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal), Sebastian Rudy (Bayern Munich).
Strikers: Mario Gomez (Stuttgart), Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich), Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund), Timo Werner (RB Leipzig).
Germany could field two teams and maintain a good chance of going all the way. Their depth and growth under Low make them serious contenders.
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