No matter how good or bad a German team looks during regular games and qualification phases , you can almost be assured that they come to the party when it matters most. For quite a while now, they’ve churned up teams that perform more often than not. Finalists in 1966, 1982, 1986, 2002 , 3rd place in 2006, and winners in 1974 and 1998. In fact, outside of a meagre 2nd round exit in 1978, Germany has at least reached the Quarter Finals every single time since 1954, when they lifted the cup for the first time! Call it what you may, it’s just hard to argue against that kind of consistency and pedigree. The German football team is very much like their automobile when it comes to performance, the parts just seamlessly fit in and operate in sync. Ever since 2002 though , there has been quite a lack of individual quality. In recent memory, only Ballack (who’s out injured) comes close to the genius of Muller, Beckenbauer, Klinsmann, Matthaus, or even Thomas Hassler and Andreas Moller. but make no mistake, it’s more about the team and the system than the individuals that make the German team click.
Germany got through their Euro group without too much of a sweat, winning 8 of their games, drawing 2 and losing none. It is fair to say that they weren’t too tested against the likes of Russia, Finland and Wales, but they did what they had to , scoring 24 goals and conceding just 5 in the process. The usual suspects Klose and Podolski emerged the top 2 goal scorers, and you can expect to see them feature prominently in Low’s plans.
After taking over as manager from Klinsmann in 2006, Joachim Low started his tenure quite brilliantly all the way upto Euro 2008, where they lost to Spain 1-0 in the finals. The ride hasn’t that smooth in recent times though, with some poor performances leading to the world cup. A 1-0 home defeat against Argentina (with Maradona at the helm of things there, you have to consider it quite a feat to lose to him!) was an indicator of how things can get difficult against quality opposition. With Ballack and a host of other important players out, the last friendly against Hungary threw out more questions than answers. Ballack’s loss is especially a big blow for Germany, for he is definitely one of the more creative players for Germany, not to mention the leadership and spirit that he brings about.
With Ballack out, Philip Lahm has been designated the captain of a squad that has 6 strikers, 7 midfielders , some potential and a lot more questions. You’ll find the usual suspects in the line up in front – with Klose and Podolski. However, Klose has had a pretty dull last season, and there are murmurs that Podolski may need to play a more withdrawn role to substitute the creativity and energy that Ballack brought. The subs are Gomez, who has yet to impress anyone, and Cacau, a brazilian born forward who has been fairly impressive in the recent few friendlies. The midfield will have Schweinsteiger, Kroos , Khedira (who’ll be counted upon to collectively fill Ballack’s role), Ozil and a young Marko Marin.
Strategy and Line-Up
Despite constant chopping and changes, there’s a high chance that Low will settle for what will be a somewhat defensive, yet organized 4-3-2-1 system.
Neuer, by recent accounts, will be honing the goalposts. In Defense , he’ll probably have Lahm , Mertesacker, Friedrich, and possibly Boeteng from left to right. Lahm and Boeteng often surge forward a little , offering support to the midfielders to keep possession. In a strange twist , Jerome Boateng will be meeting his half-brother K.P Boateng in the first round when Germany play Ghana. Guess who injured Ballack in the EPL game, thus rendering him unavailable for the world cup?
Khedira will be playing in front of the 4 man defense, often surging forward to aid in offense. He’s young and has tremendous potential, but in order to be the engine behind the team, he needs a lot of help from his team-mates. In front of him, but further wide will be Bastian Schweinsteiger, a bundle of energy down the flanks, and Ozil on the other side. Ozil is someone to keep an eye on, he has the vision , a tendency to get into goal scoring positions (especially if he plays further up front). In front of these 2, we’ll find Podolski, Kroos or Cacau and a lone-striker, probably Klose. In the last couple of games, Podolski has played a more withdrawn midfield role (exchanging him with Ozil here), in order to provide more thrust to the midfield, but it hasn’t worked too well of late.
The lumbering Mario Gomez, and Muller will be attacking options from the bench. For the X-factor, my pick is the tremendous Marko Marin, who has the speed, vision and trickery to match the best. The problem is that he is very raw and might not see much action.
The strategy from Germany will be retain as much possession. Don’t expect too many long/diagonal balls. The build-ups will be organized and non-fluffy, almost mundane. Expect some probing runs from Ozil, Podolski’s speed, Schweinsteiger’s crossing and Klose’s head to get the goals.
Germany are in Group D along with Australia, Ghana and Serbia. Kicking off on the 13th against Australia , they’ll meet Serbia on the 18th, before completing their first round endeavour against Ghana on the 23rd of June. Despite this not being one of the better teams in recent times, you’d think that the tournament mentality will see them through to the next round. These are tricky games, especially the one against Australia. Should they top the group, they’ll meet the runners-up of Group -C , possibly a very dangerous Team USA. A win here would set-up a feisty quarter finals game against Argentina or Mexico/Uruguay. It’s anybody’s game from there on.
We’ll know it. This team probably doesn’t hold a candle to many of the great German teams of yesteryear. We all know this too : never count Germany out in a big tournament. They’ll come the party all right. The key is Low and how he decides to break the monotony up front. Klose has not had the greatest of seasons, and pushing Podolski back further to midfield might stifle his talents even more. His best bets are probably Cacau and Podolski playing an attacking role. For this to happen, 2 things must happen. Ozil mainly needs to shine and be the playmaker. Secondly, Low must take risks. He must introduce a player like Marin to inject some life when things aren’t going well.