September 25, 2017

Where Germany Stand Following Cameroon Draw

Well it wasn’t the most inspiring performance. Germany’s 2-2 draw against Cameroon in Mönchengladbach was more of a typical preparation match for Die Mannschaft; largely spotty, brief moments of quality but also far from the way the team and players are actually capable of playing.

For Jogi Löw it was a good opportunity to get a last look at his squad before finalizing the 23- player roster and sending three players home. So far World Cup preparation has been dominated by player injuries and the race to reach match fitness, and that likely won’t change leading up to the tournament.

With all the injuries, there has been quite a bit of turnover in the personnel and that leaves the team with a couple of very significant questions.

Who are the players on the chopping block?

26 players traveled to Düsseldorf and Mönchengladbach. Three will be on the way back to their home towns Monday morning. There are of course players who are in no danger of being cut so it really comes down to these eight players at the end of the day:

Julian Draxler – Of all the attacking midfielders, Draxler has struggled the most with his form. His club season has been up and down and with Müller, Götze, Özil, Reus and Schürrle it is difficult to see a spot for him. With deficiencies in other areas a roster spot for another attacking player is likely wasted making Draxler one of the prime candidates to be cut from the 26.

Erik Durm – Durm made his national team debut against Cameroon and did very well. All things considered he had a reliable and mature performance. Not too naive going forward but also in sync enough with his defenders not to put his team into any risky situations. Durm should make the squad because he has not shown any glimpses that he is fazed by the occasion.

Marcel Schmelzer – Schmelzer’s fitness issue is a big reason why Durm should be taken. If he doesn’t recover in time it could come down to Grosskreutz and Schmelzer as the second left-back option. It is hard to imagine a scenario in which all three Dortmund players are taken and then used. A lot will depend on Löw’s assessment of his fitness situation. If he’s fit, he goes. Unlike players like Khedira and Schweinsteiger who may go even if not 100%, Schmelzer’s Brazilian experience very much depends on his health.

Kevin Grosskreutz – His exclusion form this match was probably the most interesting talking point selection wise. Grosskreutz was expected to be a shoo-in at the right-back spot. Perhaps Löw now favors one of his center-backs out there as better defensive cover, or perhaps Grosskreutz could be taken as an overall utility player. Either way, his versatility is too valuable for him not to make the final 23.

Kevin Volland – Originally listed as a forward in the team and as a result a viable alternative to Klose. However, Volland was not second, third or even fourth choice up front against Cameroon. It seems that Götze and Müller may be preferred to the Hoffenheim attacker, potentially making him expendable. On the other hand, his ability to play across the front four and play the striker position makes him a valuable player to have on the roster. Logic suggests Volland makes the final 23-man roster because he can play up front and out wide, whereas someone like Draxler cannot.

Christoph Kramer – Kramer is almost guaranteed to go to Brazil with the injuries in central midfield. Germany will need cover in the event Khedira or Schweinsteiger are not fit. Although his inexperience is not ideal Löw has spoken highly of him and he had good enough showings in their last two friendlies to make the squad. The question is: can Kramer deliver on the biggest stage if called upon?

Matthias Ginter – Ginter can cover at center-back and in midfield, but he didn’t feature against Cameroon and Löw may just consider it too early to take him. Ginter is one of the players most likely to be cut just because he does not suit one role particularly more than the others. In this case his versatility is to his detriment. But be sure that Ginter will be part of the national team for years to come.

Shkodran Mustafi – Mustafi is in a direct battle with Ginter for the final defensive position on the roster. As thing stand he is still behind four center-backs and because that is his preferred position odds are that he will not make the cut. Mustafi did well in training camp so far but also didn’t feature against Cameroon and in the grand scheme of things, a spot for him would probably be wasted.

Where are Germany tactically?

A loaded question to be sure. Löw stuck to his 4-2-3-1 and will continue with it at the World Cup. Who plays up front is the biggest question going into Brazil. Against Cameroon it was Götze, albeit not very successfully. Müller then filled that role much more effectively but the uncertainty still very much looms over the squad. Will Klose be fit in time? Is he still up for it. If not, will Löw stick with Götze or will he end up using Müller or Volland?  Time is certainly ticking.

The other big area of concern is central midfield where Kroos is very much the alternative to an injured Schweinsteiger and Khedira, and although he has played that role for Bayern and Germany, many times very successfully, he tends to struggle against more physical opponents. Who plays alongside him will also be important. Ideally one of Khedira or Schweinsteiger will be fit in time. If not then the inexperienced Kramer could make for a quite underwhelming and vulnerable midfield.

Löw commented after the game how their passing game was too sloppy. Indeed, Germany struggled to hold on to the ball and without it they remain extremely vulnerable defensively. Cameroon counter attacked far too easily and the defense often looks shaky when under pressure. Germany have to be more assured in possession and find the right personnel in time for the World Cup.

Equally important will be their fullbacks. Boateng and Durm both defended rather well overall, but neither offered much going forward. Reus and Müller ahead of them ended up staying wide for much of the match as a result and Götze and Özil both had a hard time getting into the game. The combination play, the runs and the players overall playing directly still looks off.

That may all come together in time but as things stand, Germany are leaving things very late. A combination of unfortunate injuries plus a clear path or team identity could cost them in Brazil. The time to make it all come together is certainly running out.

Reactions

Joachim Löw: “It was very apparent that we lacked sharpness. Our passing game wasn’t good and we made many mistakes. When we were in the lead holding on to the ball would have been very helpful. It also seems like in the last couple of years we needed many chances. Mesut Özil also didn’t have his best game. He needs two more weeks and then we’ll see the real Mesut at the World Cup.”

Per Mertesacker: “We did things well in many areas. But as soon as we lose the ball we’ll have problems against any team in the world.”

Thomas Müller: “We made things harder for us than we should have and that made life very difficult for us.”

André Schürrle: “I’m extremely motivated. I’m confident that by the time the World Cup comes around we’ll look completely different than today. The team spirit is there and we really got united in camp.”

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Cristian Nyari

Cristian is a football writer and analyst living in New York City, fascinated with the history and study of the beautiful game and all it entails. Follow Cristian on twitter @Cnyari

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