November 18, 2017

Germany’s squad selection dilemma and fringe players looking to impress

Although the World cup is three months away, each teams’ preparation is well under way and nearing completion. Joachim Löw’s Germany still has four friendlies -against Chile, Poland, Cameroon and Armenia- to experiment with his squad, before he names his final 23-player squad for the World Cup.

Following the norm of taking three goalkeepers, seven defenders, eight midfielders and five forwards, Löw still has a big selection headache with a vast selection of players to chose from.

Here is an outline of each position’s fringe players ready to pounce on a vacatated WC spot:

Goalkeepers

Manuel Neuer and Roman Weidenfeller look certain to be at Brazil as number one and two respectively, but the third choice keeper is still under question.

Around six months ago, René Adler would have been Germany’s number two choice, but his and Hamburg’s poor form could cost him his place. Barcelona-bound Marc-André ter Stegen has never looked like carrying his club form into the international stage and his distinct lack of top-level experience could cost him. Ron-Robert Zieler, Bernd Leno and Kevin Trapp are all inexperienced, but a late injury or a sudden dip in form of any of the aforementioned keepers could vacate the last spot for any of them to step up.

Defenders

Despite boasting players in sensational club form, Germany’s defence is not gelling as well as Löw thought it would.

Per Mertesacker, Mats Hummels, Jérôme Boateng, Benedikt Höwedes, Philipp Lahm and Marcel Schmelzer appear to be on the plane already.

Kevin Großkreutz looks ready to step into the vacated right full-back role should Lahm move into midfield for the national team as well. Holger Badstuber is expected to miss the Brazil showpiece because of his injury woes which saw him miss a year of football and previous regulars  Marcell Jansen and Heiko Westermann‘s poor club showings will cost them their places and only a miracle would now help them reclaim their spot.

The blooming of Freiburg’s Matthias Ginter and Sampdoria’s Shkodran Mustafi has proven that they can provide ample cover for any of the center backs, should one miss the World Cup. Ginter has attracted scouts from top European clubs due to his strong tackling, versatility and passing skills. Not to be overlooked are Eintracht Frankfurt’s Bastian Oczipka and Sebastian Jung, who could be selected if Löw decides to bring along another full back, despite being able to use versatile players like Lars Bender, Benni Höwedes and Jérôme Boateng as full-backs. Oczipka can provide a pacy outlet on the left side and has a great knack for picking the best cross. Jung, on the other hand, is a full-back who can motor up and down the right and performs particularly well in the final third.

Other players who might be considered are Leverkusen’s mini-Mertesacker, Philipp Wollscheid, and Schalke’s Dennis Aogo, although the latter’s late comeback from injury will probably prevent him of seeing any World Cup action this summer.

Midfielders

Filled with superstars, Germany’s exciting midfield seems to be the most settled choice of the four categories

Bastian Schweinsteiger, Lars Bender, Toni Kroos, Mario Götze, Thomas Müller and Mesut Özil have all earned their place in the squad despite the latter’s drop in form at Arsenal this season.

Ilkay Gündoğan and Sami Khedira will be just about ready for the World Cup after nursing injuries for most part of the season and the presence of a midfielder alongside Schweinsteiger in the centre is sorely missed. Expect to see at least one of them in Brazil.

In case either of them does not make it, the versatile Sven Bender can make it to the squad despite his injury-prone career. Bender’s great tackling, positional awareness and ability to break up opponent attacks ensure at least that he won’t be overlooked, having the option of being used in the back four as well. If a player like Julian Draxler is not guaranteed to make the squad, then one can truly boast of having a great midfield. He has not lived up to his rumoured price tag this season, which makes him a backup to the the trio of Götze, Müller and Özil.

The scintillating club form of Nicolai Müller, Sidney Sam and André Hahn gives Jogi Löw yet another headache, but expect their lack of experience to cost them a place. Schalke-bound Sam and Mainz’s Müller are both speedy wingers with great ball control and dribbling ability. However, perhaps the most enigmatic of these contenders is Augsburg’s Hahn, as helping the eternal relegation candidates to be in the fight for European qualifying places is no mean task. Other players like Schalke’s jack-of-all-trades Roman Neustädter, Werder’s motor Aaron Hunt and Gladbach’s speedy Patrick Herrmann will all look to impress and try to earn a spot, having been called up by Löw in the past.

Forwards

Lingering questions like the false-nine vs. the natural striker can be posed in perhaps the least settled position for Germany right now. Unlike the wide range of talent in other areas of the field, Germany does not boast a fearsome forward line.

Marco Reus and Andre Schürrle seem to be the only locks in this position.

The injury woes of regulars Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez could hamper Germany’s preparation and leave them without a single experienced natural striker this summer; however, despite this, both will make it to Brazil provided they are fit. Lukas Podolski‘s lack of playing time at Arsenal might mean that his place could be snatched from him by emerging players like Sam, Hahn or Draxler. The curious case of Stefan Kießling continues to bemuse fans and pundits alike, and even if he ends up having a fifty-goal season, he would certainly not make it!

The emergence of powerhouse Pierre-Michel Lasogga provides Germany with a much-needed young face and his goalscoring form for Hamburg has proven that he is ready to step up to replace Klose or Gomez. He is strong on the ball, can draw play towards him and can finish as well, exemplified by his 12 goals so far this season. Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Max Kruse does not fit into the team very well but, if there is no backup to Klose or Gomez, he could end up making the cut.

Once Joachim Low decides his 23, yet another problem will arise, this time of which eleven to start!

Has any player been left out? Feel free to leave your feedback and thoughts on this article!

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Navneeth Sridharan

Navneeth Sridharan is a 19 year old engineering student from India with a fondness for the German Bundesliga and almost everything German. You can follow his new Twitter handle for thoughts on the Bundesliga: @NavneethSridhar

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