Predicting Germany's World Cup Squad Following Latest Internationals
With the World Cup in Brazil all but three months away, each and every side taking part will be meticulously going through their rosters, checking to see just which players fit and which don't. This week we saw a number of nations take part in international friendlies to continue their search for the perfect system, style and tactic to maximise their chances of success this summer.
Joachim Loew and his German side didn't have the best of times this week against a revitalised Chilean team that gave the European side very little time or space for comfort. It was another opportunity for Loew to cement a side in place ahead of the all-important competition, yet it just didn't happen.
With three friendlies left—against Poland, Cameroon and Armenia—this coach is running out of time and opportunities to find a squad of players to make history this year.
Fortunately, we've gone through the bother of picking a side for him. Here's how Germany should look this summer.
Players on the Edge
One aspect of this current Germany side that undoubtedly outranks any other team in this summer's competition is the sheer amount of depth that is available to coach Loew in each position of the team.
The Bundesliga is a current, vibrant hub of young talent and with it comes the continued factory line of young players desperate to move up the ranks in Germany's top division and for any given cap in the national team.
In this scenario we have two tiers of players that are currently pushing for a spot in the 23-man squad for the World Cup in three months' time.
The top tier, a group of players who are on the verge of a first-team spot and will undoubtedly make the cut for the larger squad, are the likes of Schalke's Julian Draxler, Arsenal's Lukas Podolski, Chelsea's Andre Schurrle and Dortmund's Kevin Grosskreutz.
These are the players either deemed too inexperienced with the expectations of winning games for Germany, or too experienced in the past failures of former sides. They'll make up the bench of most games and Loew's plan B.
The second tier is a group of players of which the majority will be deemed too inexperienced or not quite good enough yet to make this coming World Cup squad.
This week's clash against Chile was a perfect game to blood such talent in and is exactly why we saw the likes of Matthias Ginter, Andre Hahn and Shkodran Mustafi come on late in the game. Add to that players such as Eintracht Frankfurt's Bastian Oczipka, Mainz's Nicolai Muller and Gladbach's Patrick Herrmann and you have a solid group of ambitious players just desperate to answer Loew's call.
As expected, Germany's goalkeepers are worth their weight in gold these days, and as such we can expect to see Bayern's Manuel Neuer and Dortmund's Roman Weidenfeller take up the No. 1 and No. 2 spots respectively.
Yet the third and final spot becomes a little tricky when we consider just how many players throughout the Bundesliga are available to Loew.
Last year, Hamburg's Rene Adler would have been a shoe-in, yet the spot now looks more likely to go to Hannover's Ron-Robert Zieler or Bayer Leverkusen's Bernd Leno. Additionally, younger guns Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Kevin Trapp will continue to impress each week and ask questions up until the final day of Loew's decision.
It's been well documented for some time that despite bolstering a number of excellent players in the back line, Germany's defence has continued to falter from game to game.
In the last game against Chile we saw the aforementioned Grosskreutz take up the role of right full-back in Philipp Lahm's absence from defence. Whether this is a permanent switch from Loew is something we might not figure out until he has a full squad to chose from.
In the centre of defence we're likely to see two of three mainstay defenders fight over the two spots. These three will be Per Mertesacker of Arsenal, Dortmund's Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng from Bayern.
The likely scenario is Boateng moving out right when the Dortmund defender returns from injury and poor form.
This then leaves the left-back position to fill. Loew has stuck with Marcell Jansen for many of the last few friendlies, yet this is likely to be no more than a simple preparation for the unfortunate possibility of first-team left-back Marcel Schmelzer struggling to make it through the full tournament without picking up an injury.
The Dortmund defender is undoubtedly the key man for Loew in this position and will be one of the few players who claim he'll be starting if fully fit.
It's once we get to midfield that we truly see the strength and depth of this Germany side, and just why so many people have called them as favourites for the World Cup this year.
The first two names on the teamsheet are Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm as Loew looks to copy the partnership that seems to be working wonders for their club this season. Although the captain is a defender, he has recently been converted to a midfielder by Pep Guardiola and truly thrived in the position.
Alongside the Bayern duo, another Bavarian star in Toni Kroos is likely to join them in the middle to make up what should be an all-Bayern trio in the centre of the pitch. The 24-year-old may not be as flashy or as experienced as others in the squad, but he's proved his worth at Bayern countless times and will have to start for Germany this summer.
Yet this also leaves a number of truly wonderful footballers who will be left on the sideline just waiting to replace any of the aforementioned stars. The three most prominent ones will be Sami Khedira of Real Madrid and the Dortmund duo of Sven Bender and Ilkay Gundogan, with the latter probably the most likely one to break the Bavarian dominance in the middle of the pitch if he can get back from injury in time.
Germany enjoy playing with a front line consisting of one stand-alone striker and two wide players on either wing, meaning that in all circumstances and against any opponent they will look to attack from the offset.
It would seem as though Loew is hoping to stick with the tried-and-tested method of playing record-equalling Miroslav Klose as the lone striker, yet should the ageing star prove either unfit or out of form there are other alternatives.
The four key players to then consider are Bayern forwards Mario Gotze and Thomas Mueller, record Arsenal signing Mesut Ozil and Dortmund's Marco Reus. These four will undoubtedly prove to be the main difference between victory and defeat this summer as they combine to form one of the deadliest attacks in the world.
Reus is likely to keep his spot on the left, while Ozil and Gotze rotate between playing on the right and sitting in a central position. With Mueller often coming on late in the game or playing as the main striker, as he does for Bayern on a regular basis.
In a squad full of world-class players, it's these four who stand out as the true stars in this team. They'll be the ones who either make the headlines all across the globe this summer or are constantly berated for what they never accomplished. This is why Loew must ensure he gets them set up correctly and playing the football we all know they can play.