Just a few days left before the much anticipated Euro 2016 kicks off in France. There are a lot of contenders for lifting the trophy such as the defending champions Spain, hosts France and of course, the world champions Germany along with many others. Regardless, we will focus on Germany and their chances in this Euros 2016.
Form Leading Up To The Tournament
After lifting the World Cup two years ago, Germany have had a topsy-turvy campaign coupled with their poor performances in the friendlies. However, they still managed to finish in the top spot in a group consisting Poland, Republic of Ireland along with Scotland, Georgia and Gibraltar. They started of the qualifying campaign by beating Scotland 2-1, but then suffered a 2-0 defeat to Poland, followed by a 1-1 draw against Ireland.
After that they went on a five-game winning streak, beating minnows Gibraltar twice, Georgia, Poland and Scotland. They then lost 1-0 to Ireland on the road before beating Georgia 2-1 at home to finish one point ahead of Poland.
The midfield will surely be a strength for Die Mannschaft once again. Even with the exclusion of Ilkay Gündogan through injury, the midfield looks very sharp with guys like Toni Kroos (94% passing accuracy this season), Sami Khedira, Bastian Schweinsteiger pivoting the midfield while young talent Julian Weigl (91% passing accuracy) sitting in reserve. Upfront, Mesut Özil, who romped the Premier League with a gaudy amount of assists will once again be a key part.
The holding abilities of Toni Kroos (dispossessed only 20 times in 44 games!) and Bastian Schweinsteiger have been a key asset for Germany in past few years, they barely lose possession of the ball and have the ability to produce a killer pass every now and then.
As good as the midfielders are, Germany can also bank on their goalkeepers as well. For a long period of time, Germany have been blessed with great goalkeepers and Manuel Neuer, undoubtedly the best goalkeeper in the world right now and surely a top contender for being one of the best of all time, is not only a good shotstopper but has tremendous awareness too. Very comfortable with the ball at his feet, Neuer, is often seen moving up the pitch as if he’s a key part to the buildup.
But it’s not only Neuer that we are talking about, the other two goalkeepers in Marc Andre Ter Stegen and Bernd Leno is of pure quality as well and would have been a first choice goalkeeper for most of the teams participating in the Euros.
Manuel Neuer will be the undisputed number one, in case of any injury, Joachim Löw might just choose Marc Andre Ter Stegen ahead of Bernd Leno, as the Barcelona keeper is a bit more experienced on the national stage.
As for the defense, there are a lot of dilemma for Joachim Löw in terms of selection. New Bayern Munich defensive duo Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng will also feature on two Center Back positions for Germany but with Hummels expected to miss the couple of matches, Valencia defender Shkodran Mustafi might take over that role.
Germany played with four center backs in the first few games in the World Cup, don’t expect a similar scenario but Low may still opt for three center backs. Schalke captain Benedikt Höwedes’ comeback from injury has been a great boon for the world champions as the 27 year old is tremendously versatile in the defensive zones, he was deployed as a left back in the World Cup and in this Euros expect him to play in the right hand side of defense.The left position will be occupied by Köln’s Jonas Hector, very highly linked to a move to Liverpool this summer.
The inclusion of Bayern Munich youngster Joshua Kimmich was a very wise move from Joachim Löw, from every perspective. As fearless as he is versatile, a central midfielder by nature, Kimmich was deployed in central defense, right back and other various positions by Pep Guardiola this season. The youngster is destined to make a mark in the national team and if given the chance, Kimmich is the man to watch out for!
Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira will pivot the midfield with Özil in an advanced position. The onus is on the Arsenal playmaker to assist the front duo of Thomas Müller and Mario Gomez. The rotation is expected between Andre Schürrle, Mario Götze and Julian Draxler. With no Marco Reus, one would sense, Julian Draxler might finally get the chance to impress with the national team as well as his former teammate Leroy Sane, who’s been basically picked up as a reserve but Joachim Löw might be tempted to introduce Sane, in one or two games considering his blistering form this season.
Formation and Tactics
Since the arrival of Pep Guardiola, Germany has welcomed the possession play with open arms. As most of the players stems from Bayern Munich, they are now far better suited to possession play rather than Germany’s trademark counter-attacking play. Not just Bayern, Thomas Tuchel’s Borussia Dortmund also preferred the possession based game. In Tuchel, the Bundesliga now has an authority on the possession game, as well as the pressing game, which makes the game look more interesting, in a tactical point of view and with 13 out 23 players coming from the Bundesliga, Joachim Löw is sure to have that tactical flexibility which is present in the Bundesliga.
Germany is once again expected to keep possession of the ball, dig deep, create chances and hoping either of Müller or Gomez could make full of use of it. It will be interesting to see which center back shows up in the build-up play as both Boateng and Hummels are quite used to form the first phase of the attack. Whoever that may be, you could expect Höwedes to act more as RCB in the attacking phases.
However, Germany might not play the same 4-2-3-1 formation as they did in the World Cup. The inclusion of Mario Gomez has forced Low to change the formation time and time. The 4-2-1-3 or 4-4-2 or simple 4-3-3 formation will probably be rotated during various stages of the tournament.
On the flip side, Gomez’s addition to the team is merited, with teams now deliberately gifting the possession to the other team and going the Atletico Madrid style, the presence of a traditional center forward like Gomez will always do good for Germany when things are not going in their favor in creating chances.
Welp, we have lot to talk about here!
Even as a Germany fan, I have to admit that the German team are going into the tournament with more weak points rather than the strong ones.
Critics: Joachim Löw has been mainly criticized for his squad selection ahead of the Euros, notably the exclusion of Marcel Schmelzer, who is now the best Left Back option for Germany. Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke also indirectly criticized the selection for not selecting enough Dortmund players, stating “The national team seems to be in pretty good shape when you consider that only three players were needed from a club which gathered 78 points this season”
Poor Form and Injuries: What’s worse is that two of the key players in Ilkay Gündogan and Marco Reus are out from the tournament through injury. Moreover, the players who are already in the squad are not in the best forms either. Players like Mario Götze, Andre Schürrle, Bastian Schweinsteiger also Mesut Özil didn’t have a good second half of the season with Arsenal.
Fullback Problems: Die Mannschaft are going into the competition having no real Right back and only recognized left back in Jonas Hector. Although Höwedes is extremely reliable in defense but an injury could provide real trouble for Jogi Löw and his troops. Emre Can and Joshua Kimmich have been brought in as fullback replacements whilst both of them are midifleders by nature.
No Real Leaders: The retirement of Philipe Lahm, Per Mertesacker and Miroslav Klose after the world cup has left Germany with a huge gap of replacing a spirited leader. Lahm’s composure always helped Germany in trickiest of situations but since his retirement, Germany’s lack of having any on field leader have been clearly visible. Bastian Schweinsteiger was given the armband but his injury hit season with Manchester United haven’t helped either. In fact, some critics have started questioning his place in the starting lineup.
Political Problems: Just a few weeks before the Euros, a cloud of racism has been seen hovering over the country as the political leader of Alternative fur Deutschland(AfD) party, Alexander Gauland has spoken ill over the Germany team not being a 100% German. The inclusion of the Integrated germans like Mesut Ozil, Jerome Boateng in the team has been criticized by AfD with Gauland stating “Boateng might be a top footballer but I don’t think people will necessarily want him as their neighbor”. These types of political affairs and racism would surely dampen the morale of the whole team for sure.
Thomas Müller: Muller will be the most important player for Germany in this Euros. After a very good season with Bayern Munich where he scored 25 goals in the Bundesliga, the 27 year old striker will be the main goalscorer for Germany and sure his performance would affect the whole team.
Toni Kroos: The former Bayern man slayed in the World Cup in Brazil two years ago and this time he will also be looking for the same results. Fresh from winning the Champions League with Real Madrid, Kroos will pull the strings from the middle.
Mats Hummels: The Bavanrian born defender has just completed a controversial switch from Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich and he will raring to impress his new team with a strong performance in the Euros. His unavailability in first few games could prove to be a big loss for Germany.
How far will they go?
Finals! The fans will be hoping for at least a finals spot. However, Germany are in a tough group consisting Poland, Ukraine and Northern Ireland so getting out of the group could be tricky for them. They will have to at their of top of the game in the knockout stages, and in general trend, Germany have fared well in the knockout stages of a major competition in the last few years and I can easily imagine a Spain vs Germany finals! Just need to bring back that good ol’ 2014 world-winning form!
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