It seems to be a continual trend, never right off the Germans. Consistently our foes show us how to utilise the best of their abilities, and after being world champions on three occasions, this time they could yet again be among the finalists. After a decent performance on home soil in the 2006 World Cup, not many changes needed to be incorporated. Already a team consisting of young superstars such as Lukas Podolski, Per Mertesacker and Bastian Schweinsteiger, the most notable change was in the managerial department, where Joachim Löw has been instated after being the assistant manager. After being runners-up in the 2008 European Championships, the coach will be hoping they can go one better this summer.
A noticeable characteristic of the German squad is that they are very young. Indeed out of the 23-men selected, only two surpass the age of 30 – reserve keeper Hans-Jörg Butt and Miroslav Klose. Löw has tried to nurture some of the players who performed so successfully in last summer’s U-21 European Championships, in which they won after a convincing 4-0 trouncing of England, with the likes of Manuel Neuer, Jérôme Boateng, Dennis Aogo, Sami Khedira and Mesut Özil all competing in the final. The mixture between youth and experience is usually the chemistry for success, and if they can get the formula correct, there could be little to prevail over them.
Injuries have halted their preparations however; with the influential captain Michael Ballack being on the end of a wreckless tackle by Boateng’s brother Kevin-Prince in the FA Cup final. Although in the twilight years of his career, he is pivotal for the team, and his encouragement towards the other players will be sorely missed. Christian Traesch, Rene Adler and Heiko Westerman were among the other casualties, resulting in limited experience among the camp. Löw will have to call upon the likes of newly appointed captain Phillip Lahm to help the younger players settle within the camp. The Coach however has reassured his youthful players over their ability: “We have young players who are technically very good and the potential is high. We have a good team with great will and a great atmosphere. Everybody is passionate in training and that makes me certain that we can play a good tournament – I have lots of faith.”
Die Mannschaft, with their knack of winning, could be a good outside bet this summer, and no matter what form they are in, they have that winning mentality. A worry for the fans will be whether their strikers will be on form. Klose and Podolski have impeccable records at international level – 86 goals combined – but their club form has been woeful this season with just eight goals between them. Podolski has been criticised back home, voted by Kicker magazine as the ‘Fans Flop of the Season’ after his measly two goals for Cologne. The way in which these two will flourish on the biggest stage is if they receive the right service, and in playmaker Özil they are sure to acquire it. The attacking midfielder has been tipped by many to be one of the rising stars in the World Cup, and if he can transfer his club form on to the international stage, then there is every chance he can retain the FIFA Best Young Player Award for Germany, after Podolski’s triumph in 2006. The Werder Bremen midfielder will be the one who is expected to be the creative force in Ballack’s absence, and has all the ability to unlock oppositional defences.
Defensively could be where the problems lay for Germany, with inexperience being a cause for concern. Lahm and Manchester City new-boy Boateng seem assured as full-backs, but there are still issues over who will be Mertesacker’s defensive partner. Neuer will be in-goal, but originally being third-choice at the start of the season could again see the lack of international appearances cause some anxiety. With a lack of real pedigree they could be exposed, and that is why the likes of Schweinsteiger will be pivotal in protecting his defence, a slightly different role to his normally accustomed spot on the left-wing.
Germany will kick-off their group against Australia on Sunday and with a relatively difficult group, will be keen to start as they mean to end. With a 3-1 victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina in last week’s friendly they will hope that they can maintain the momentum, and their loyal contingent of fans will be fully supportive of them as they know they can cause an upset.
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