After having taken a took at France’s bid for Euros 16 ( which you can here ), I thought I would take a look at the team most of the Gooners in the world support – The Mighty Germans.
Three-time European Champions, Germany come into the Euro 2016 as current World Champions and as top favorites to do the double. For a long time, they were always on the cusp of something great. 2014 World Cup was finally the tournament where this team fulfilled their potential by playing some breathtaking football on the way to winning the World Cup. They also brought an end to the domination that Spain had built over a period of almost 8 years winning everything that was on offer. Winning the Euro 16 would be a great way for them to start their own dominant run in international football.
The qualifying phase for Euro 2016 wasn’t smooth sailing for the Germans. For a team that is used to finish qualifying campaigns with a whitewash over other teams in the group, two losses and a draw can easily be categorized as sub-par considering their exceptionally high standards. Joachim Löw has had to deal with some high-profile retirements, with seasoned veterans Phillip Lahm, Per Mertesacker and Miroslav Klose calling time on their international career on a high after the World Cup Final at the Maracana. Joachim Low would be relatively happy with how the new entrants to the National Team fold have adapted to International Football after the initial hiccups.
Löw has recently announced his 27 men provisional squad for the Euros. The man is often known to throw some curveballs when it comes to squad selection and starting line-ups, so it’s not so easy to second guess the German boss. And true to this, he has named three uncapped players by calling up Joshua Kimmich, Julian Weigl and Julian Brandt for the provisional list.
Manuel Neuer, Berndt Leno and Marc-Andre Ter Stegen
It won’t come as a surprise to many that Manuel Neuer is considered the best keepers in the world by many (including yours truly) and with yet another impressive season for German Champions Bayern Munchen, he can look forward to being an ever-present figure in Jogi Low’s team. The German custodian has amassed 20 clean sheets in 34 appearances this season en route to a league and cup double, his penalty shootout heroics against Dortmund in the DFB Pokal final one of the reasons why it happened. Marc-Andre terStegen has been kept out of the first team by the impressive Claudio Bravo when it comes to League Football, barely making a few isolated starts, but the young keeper has been a constant presence in the Copa del Ray and the UEFA Champions League. He has made a few blunders when on international duty, so he is not expected to pose much of a threat to Neuer’s spot just yet. Bernd Leno’s impressive season between the sticks for Bayer Leverkusen (who finished 3rd in the Bundesliga) with 13 clean sheets deserving earns a place in the squad, and he is an able backup.
Mustafi, Jonas Hector, Höwedes, Hummels, Can, Rudiger, Boateng and Rudy
Joachim Low’s defense roster is filled almost exclusively with Centre-Backs who can also play on the flanks. Jonas Hector, the only natural fullback in the squad, is widely expected to slot into the left-hand side. Has been one of Koln’s better players this season and will be productive going forward. With the left back slot covered, we now move onto the no man’s land of German defence which is their right back position as the retirement of Lahm has created a chasm in that position after being ever-present there for over a decade. The successor for that spot when it comes to Euro 16 is a toss-upbetweenEmreCan, Antonio Rudiger, Sebastian Rudy, BenediktHöwedes and Jerome Boateng. Boateng, though, is a nailed on starter at centre-back so it would make sense not to push him into a position he hasn’t played in for a long time. Others are all makeshift players. Out of that list, I feel BenediktHowedes is the guy to get the nod. Starting Boateng and new Bayern man Mats Hummels as the central defensive pairing is a no-brainer. Boateng at times does tend to get caught out high up the pitch but Hummels has made a career out of sweeping up to nullify the mistakes of defensive partners. The two Bayern men are a natural fit, they are both comfortable on the ball and I feel it will prove to be a very solid pairing for club and country for now and several years to come. Others such as Mustafi, Can and Rudiger will fill in as and when required but I doubt if they will see much in the way of action barring injuries.
Löw is in a position where has to remove 4 players from his provisional list and I think Rudy is someone he can afford to leave home. There are other players who offer more to the squad than what he does and they are also as equally versatile as the Hoffenheim man.
Khedira, Schweinsteiger, Kroos, Weigl and Kimmich
Toni Kroos is the midfield lynchpin of this German Team and is largely expected to reprise his Deep Lying Midfielder role which he does so effectively at Real Madrid, helping them to yet another Champions League final this season. His effective distribution and ability to shoot from a distance makes him one of the world’s top Central Midfielders. My choice as his midfield partner would be Sami Khedira who has had a renaissance since moving to Juventus, becoming a key man in their midfield instead of being a small fish in a big pond at Real Madrid. But injury concerns continue to cloud the man and he has missed quite a few games because of that this season, with a disrupted calf muscle widely believed to keep him off the starting line-up in Euro 16. One person who might benefit from Khedira’s misery can be uncapped Dortmund youngster Weigl. His call-up comes on the back of a terrific debut season for the German Giants, an exceptional ball winner who will be the perfect foil for Kroos. Joshua Kimmich has done quite well at Bayern filling in ably when required. He is also apparently adept at both centre-back and right-back position making him a valuable squad member, and might prove to be a big plus in his favour when your manager has to decide who he can afford to drop and who he can’t do without.
The player who seems most likely to miss out from this group might sadly be Bastian Schweinsteiger. He used to be one of the first names on Jogi Low’s team-sheet, but his advancing years and lack of first-team opportunities after an indifferent debut season with Manchester United night seriously dent the German Legend’s chances. Having been used largely as a bit-part player by (the now fired) Louis van Gaal, his waning skills are evident for everyone who have followed his fortunes this season. He would, however, offer a lot in terms of experience both on and off the field if he gets picked, and the youngsters in the squad will deeply benefit from his inclusion.
Özil, Schurrle, Podolski, Reus, Muller, Draxler, Götze, Bellarbi, Gomez, Brandt and Sane.
Germans are currently blessed with a lot of creative midfielders and top of that chain is Arsenal’s main man Mesut Özil. Having had a barnstorming season at the Emirates Stadium, finishing with 19 assists (more than anyone else in Europe’s top 5 leagues), he will be the man expected to provide the ammunition for this German machine. His ability on and off the ball is immense, coupled with his incredible vision to keep creating chances aplenty. The other man who, in my opinion, slots into this starting 11 with little in the way of doubts has to be Marco Reus. Having seen most of his colleagues cross over to Bayern, with Hummels being the latest to take the oft-travelled path, Reus is now fighting the lone fight at Dortmund. He is considered to be one the best inside forwards in the world. With pace to burn coupled with amazing shooting ability and an exceptional set piece ability to boot, he is a player that every opponent would be highly wary of. Partnering Reus on the other flank should be the inimitable Thomas Muller, a man capable of playing all over the park in the offensive half. Best employed as a shadow striker, the Bayern man has mastered the art of being in the right place at the right time. A clinical finisher who has bagged 32 goals in 49 appearances for the Bavarian Giants, he boasts incredible stats for someone who doesn’t play the lone-man role up front. Mario Götze has featured intermittently for the German Champions and along with Julian Draxler will be seen as a more direct alternative for Özil.
Lukas Podolski has had a pretty productive season with Galatasaray, notching up 13 goals and 9 assists in the Turkish League. He is blessed with a hammer of a left foot, but many get the impression that he is more active on social media than he is on the pitch. Performing in one of the bigger leagues and performing in Turkey are also two very different things. If it comes down to whether he is good enough for this team, the answer would be a ‘No’. Andre Schurrle hasn’t really set the league on fire on his return to Germany with Wolfsburg, scoring just 9 goals in 30 appearances in what has been a very disappointing season for the 2015 German Cup Winners. His career has gone on a downward spiral since his move to Chelsea and is a frontrunner to be axed from the 27-man list.
Löw has induced a lot of youngsters with pace to burn and reputations to build. Karim Bellarabi will prove to be a very tricky customer on the right flank. The Leverkusen man can be used as an alternative to Muller, and a potent threat on the counter-attack. The way he has been talked up, he might just be their mainstay on the right for years to come. Leroy Sane is another budding winger that Löw has at his disposal, after his breakthrough season with Schalke.The youngster has ended the current season with 10 goals and 8 assists to his name which is pretty impressive for a 20-year-old. Julian Brandt has made heads turn with his performances of late for Leverkusen.
When it comes to the striker department, Löw had picked only one natural striker in Mario Gomez. Although Muller can play up front too, it makes more sense to play the natural Target man. Gomez is not wasteful in front of goal and has a great aerial presence. If he can utilize the chances fashioned by his creative colleagues, expect him to be up there in the scoring charts. But if he gets injured midway through the tournament, Germany will be forced to play one of the others as a False 9, a ploy that often had to resort during their World Cup campaign to largely positive effect.
Löw will use a 4-2-3-1 with Jonas bombing forward and Höwedes playing as a limited full back. Khedira/Weigl will play the anchor role while Kroos will sit deep and dictate play. Özil will be creative fulcrum of this team with Gomez, Muller and Reus benefitting from this wonderful midfield.
Key Player :
Thomas Muller, famously named Der Raumdeuter for his ability to find space where others come back empty handed, is their Trump Card. He might not seem like someone who excels in any particular aspect of the game, but he is one of the complete attackers in world football. For him to play to his potential is key for Germany to finish this tournament as the victors.
Area of Concern:
Lack of quality full-backs and dearth of strikers might still come back to haunt them. A few injuries just might derail their plans. Keeping Gomez fit and firing is important.
In Group C, Germany is accompanied by Ukraine, Poland and Northern Ireland. The game against Poland will be interesting as they struggled against them earlier in the group stage. The world expects the Germans to top this group with ease, and anything other than a win from every game will be considered as an underwhelming outlay.
Unlike other teams who perform well in Friendlies and Qualifiers only to falter in the big stage, Germans traditionally come good in tournaments and we might see more of the same in Euro 16. Anything less than a Semifinal Spot would be considered as catastrophic for Löw. If they can play to their potential, I expect them to go the full distance. They are my Top Favorites to win the Euro and complete the Double.