Times are good for German football. The traditional bigger powers from Munich and Dortmund have both enjoyed a healthy period since the last World Cup. Attendances for the Bundesliga reflect it’s steady strengthening.
Most of the players in an imposing-looking German squad are home based and the fact that those who are not, have left only for Europe’s elite clubs, is testament to the current standard of their domestic league.
The sheer intimidating quality oozing from the ranks of the Nationalmannschaft heading to Brazil will come as no surprise to anyone in football. Over the last six or seven years it seems German clubs have been relentlessly churning out one top-drawer player after another.
This conveyor belt shows no sign of slowing. Joachim Löw’s team are a major force now and will be for years to come.
This unbelievable strength in depth gave Löw a challenge in selection that the coaches of their group G rivals could only dream about.
Despite the vast array of talent available to the former Stuttgart boss, his plans have been hit by a series of niggles if not any major problems. His selection has also raised a few eyebrows while simultaneously perhaps offering a clue to his tactical thinking.
Firstly, several of those who would have been in contention, have become unavailable to the boss due to injury. Those currently listed also contain a few key men carrying knocks including Lahm, Klose, Neuer and Schweinsteiger. It has also emerged that Schalke pair Draxler and Höwedes were involved in an accident at a recent Mercedes circuit event in Italy. While neither was hurt, the investigation may yet cast a shadow over the squad’s preparation.
Löw includes only the veteran Miroslav Klose as an established striker. The interesting lack of back up suggests Germany may follow the emerging trend of the false nine, something the coach has already experimented with in qualifying.
Goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer (Bayern) Ron-Robert Zieler (Hannover) Roman Weidenfeller (Dortmund)
Defenders: Philipp Lahm (Bayern) Per Mertesacker (Arsenal) Jérôme Boateng (Bayern) Mats Hummels (Dortmund) Benedikt Höwedes (Schalke) Kevin Großkreutz (Dortmund) Matthias Ginter (Freiburg) Shkodran Mustafi (Sampdoria) Erik Durm (Dortmund)
Midfielders: Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern) Mesut Özil (Arsenal) Sami Khedira (Real Madrid) Toni Kroos (Bayern) Mario Götze (Bayern) Julian Draxler (Schalke) Christoph Kramer (Borussia Mönchengladbach) André Schürrle (Chelsea)
Forwards: Lukas Podolski (Arsenal) Miroslav Klose (Lazio) Thomas Müller (Bayern)
Pretty much any established centre forward with a German passport. The potential new tactical direction and the abundance of deeper-lying talent meant traditional front men missed out. Mario Gomez, who has 25 international goals to his name and has featured at every major tournament since 2008, has right to be particularly miffed.
Back In midfield the Bender twins have both been ruled out by injury. Sven, of Dortmund had his hopes dashed fairly early but brother Lars has only just withdrawn from the provisional 27 with a muscle problem. İlkay Gündoğan ‘s nightmare 12 months of injury continue and he is unavailable.
Marcell Jansen meanwhile, a 28-year-old left-back or winger who went to the last two World Cups has also been omitted.
Finally, Germany were handed a hammer blow in their preparations when Marco Reus was forced out of the tournament due to injury.
During this time he has overseen a steady strengthening and has stabilised Germany as a power at the very top of the International game. So far though, a major trophy eludes him.
The semi-final defeat to Italy at Euro 2012 was the first time falling short began to see the pressure on him mount. Until that point, semi finals were seen as acceptable for a side still approaching maturity. Not anymore.
The general opinion of the former midfielder at home remains largely positive but frustration is starting to creep in here and there. While his stylish sides generally meet expectations with dominant qualification performances and his attacking philosophy is still viewed as refreshing, the occasional defensive horror show has seen the alarm bells sounded more than once.
The man who has also managed club sides in Turkey and Austria could easily be the victim of a quest for fresh ideas, should his charges fail to deliver.
Preparation has been taken to the extreme by Germany’s footballing big wigs. So much so, that they have built their own training base, Campo Bahia, in Brazil. It is here that Löw will fine tune his machine. What form that machine will take remains to be seen.
With the German plane thoroughly packed for take-off with attacking midfielders it seems that a fashionable false nine, with support from the flanks and further back, will form the pinnacle of Jogi’s attacking strategy.
In a sense the role could be similar to that played by Cesc Fabregas for Spain back at Euro 2012 when the reigning championships also chose to forego a centre forward. If Klose is to break Ronaldo’s World Cup goalscoring record, you would imagine he will need to do it from the bench.
Mario Götze is perhaps just edging ahead of his various rivals to occupy the false nine role itself.
Löw must decide too, whether to use Phillip Lahm as one of the two in his 4-2-3-1 or to push him into a full-back berth. This could perhaps depend on the match sharpness of Sami Khedira whose appearance in the Champions League final is one of only a handful this year following a cruciate injury.
Bastian Schweinsteiger. The heartbeat of the side for both club and country, the Bayern man provides energy, intelligence and leadership.
His superb range of passing will help Germany maximise the attacking talents operating ahead of him. It is still unclear though, who will partner him in the deeper lying midfield duo.
Despite a number of excellent younger talents in the German squad, the Bayern midfielder remains one of the real stars of the show.
One to watch
Mario Götze. Even at 22 Götze has been around long enough to already have a big transfer and almost 30 caps under his belt.
A lot of his appearances though, have been cameo roles and this will be his first real opportunity to showcase his skills on the international stage.
He seems to be at the top of the waiting list to lead the line for Germany as a flashy false nine. If he can meet expectations they will look very slick indeed.
A squad this good has to be in with a shout. Their path however, is already fraught with danger.
Group G is stacked with quality. Germany will be favourites to best Portugal, Ghana and the USA but each will be a stern test.
Nevertheless advancement looks imminent and they could go all the way to Rio.