Group D – The Germans
June 1, 2010 1 Comment
Nobody can deny that in international history, Germany are always among the front-runners. The Germans hold an impressive pedigree having won the World Cup three times, finishing runners-up on four occasions and having made the Quarter Finals in 14 of 16 appearances. The reason for this winning mentality: belief and efficiency. Even when critics have written them off, Germany manages to produce the goods.
So what of this year’s injury-ridden squad. Can they live up to their predecessors?
The injury to captain Michael Ballack has clearly hit Germany hard. He’s arguably been the best German footballer of the last decade, with almost 100 caps for his country. This season he’s been given more game time at Chelsea, with Michael Essien out injured, and he’s shown the quality that made him one of Europe’s best players.
Seeing him leaving the Wembley pitch at the FA Cup Final, you could see immediately that he knew he was out of the tournament, A real shame for someone who wants to eradicate the memories of previous World Cups, especially in 2002 when Ballack missed the final due to suspension.
The captain’s armband has been given to full-back Philipp Lahm, who’s improved a lot in the past few years. His first responsibility was to calm down the media hysteria over the plague of injuries.
He told reporters at a recent training camp: “‘The team cannot be allowed to be influenced by these injuries. The big aim is the semi-finals but you first have to deal with the group stage. We want to get into the semis and the team does indeed dream of more than that.”
But it isn’t just Ballack that won’t be on the plane to South Africa. Leverkusen’s keeper Rene Adler will miss the tournament after picking up a rib injury last month. His club team-mate, midfielder Simon Rolfes, who hasn’t played since January has lost his fitness battle as well.
Add to that injuries to Schalke’s Heiko Westermann, who was impressive in qualifying, and Stuttgart’s young midfielder Christian Traesch has seen Joachim Low effectively have his squad picked for him.
Although the first-team is largely unaffected, Low clearly has a large gap to fill in the centre of midfield if Germany are to be considered amongst the rest of the favourites. However, over the past year, the Bundesliga has seen a wealth of talented midfielders emerge, and consequently made the rest of Europe take more notice in the league itself.
Several of these players hold dual nationality. Werder Bremen’s young attacking midfielder, Marko Marin for example was born in Yugoslavia and expects Serbia to be their main rivals in Group D. He’s often compared to Joe Cole by scouts, being fairly adept in the attacking midfielder role.
Similarly, his team-mate Mesut Ozil (who’s half Turkish) has received rave reviews, and has been linked with a post World-Cup move to Arsenal. It is clear that if the younger players perform well, their stock in the transfer market will sky-rocket.
Low has several options up front available to him but it seems certain that Lukas Podolski will be on the left and Thomas Muller on the right, with the experienced but out-of-form Miroslav Klose in the centre. Klose tends to be prolific at World Cups, with 5 goals in each of the last two tournaments.
More worryingly for Low seems to be his defence. Only Per Mertesacker and newly appointed captain Philipp Lahm hold experience at international level, although Jerome Boateng is held in high regard at Hamburg. Low’s key problem is finding another full-back to complement the defence.
Erratic and now retired goal-keeper, Jens Lehmann spoke out against the lack of experience, especially in the keepers, in the German national team.
He said: ‘You can’t win the title with relatively inexperienced keepers. Neither plays regularly in the Champions League, at the highest level.’
It’s fair to say that they haven’t found an adequate replacement goalkeeper since Oliver Kahn, but with so many great young outfield players coming out of the Bundesliga, the negativity from former players doesn’t exactly help the team.
If German fans finally show some optimism towards the array of youth on show and get behind the side, like on home soil in 2006, then they should do very well. Never count out the Germans, their record speaks for itself.
And failing that, a penalty shootout always serves them well.
I leave you with the first goal from 2006, a peach by new Germany captain, Philipp Lahm