Die Mannschaft- Under the burden of expectations
Kinshuk Biswas visits the prospects of the indomitable German side in the Euro campaign
The most successful team in the history of Euro with three wins and two runners up finishes. One of the favourites in this Euro with an all win record in the qualifiers. Writing the preview for such a team should be easy! Still it is very difficult to write about the chances of Die Mannschaft or the German team for Euro 2012 finals. The German team has inherited the brilliant record of its West German predecessors who were dominant in the Euro in the 70s. West Germany first won the tournament in 1972 defeating Soviet Union in the final. West Germany became the first side to be European and World Champions together winning the World Cup in 1974. The team again won the trophy in 1980 defeating Belgium in the final. Only a penalty shoot-out loss to Czechoslovakia in 1976 prevented the team from being champions three consecutive times. The last triumph was in 1996 when they overcame a determined Czech Republic side by a golden goal. That tournament the team qualified very impressively with an all win record; they, however, had only the Turkish and Belgian teams as major opponents and not a team which was truly world-class. Then in the final tournament draw Germany was drawn into the potential group of death which was rather inevitable given that the host nations were relatively lower ranked. Germans are going to play all their matches in Ukraine. The team will take a lot of confidence in the fact that Bayern Munich played in the Champions league final and a lot of the squad are members of the national team.
German manager Joachim or Jogi Löew as he is popularly known has built upon Jurgen Klinsmann ‘s philosophy which was to bring the team out of their traditionally dour style of play to a more attractive and attacking style.
German teams of the past were well-known for their ‘never say die’ spirit and methodical play which, although not very pleasant to the aficianodos’ eyes, always got the results.. This German team is refreshingly attacking and seems to have a more fluid approach than the usual mechanical style. In their last two major tournaments they have lost to the same Spanish team by an identical 1-0 margin. In the last World Cup, the young German mid-field was outplayed by the tiki-taka style of Spain. This time, however, two German midfielders now play in the La Liga winning Real Madrid team and will have the experience of playing against similar opposition. The team will employ the 4-2-3-1 system against all teams which can be modified into a 4-3-3 or a 4-4-2 formation if required. The 4-2-3-1 may have two holding midfielders or a deep playmaker as the situation demands. The Germans should play a short passing game using their talented mid-fielders to dictate possession and control play. The creative midfielders should allow this team to create a lot of chances. The team will score a lot of goals but it is to be seen if their defence can prevent the opposition from scoring in key matches.
They who hold fort
The manager Joachim Löw has announced a provisional list of 27 players of which 23 will make the final selection. Manuel Neuer has strengthened his hold on the goalkeeping position with a superb performance in the champions’ league semi final for Bayern against Real Madrid. Tim Wiese of Werder Bremen should be the second choice. Young Marc-André ter Stegen of Monchengladbach who is rumoured to be the next big German goalkeeping talent should be in the squad to gain valuable tournament experience.
The German defence has a very young look to it. Holger Badstuber of Bayern and Mats Hummels of Dortmund are both good defenders in the central areas. Benedikt Höwedes is also a likely choice. Captain Phillip Lahm is one of the best full-backs in the business and can play both on the left and right side of defence. Jerome Boateng can play both on the right and the centre of defence. Marcel Schmelzer of Dortmund in my opinion should be the first choice left back with Lahm on the right and Boateng on the bench. Löew has selected Mertesacker in his provisional list. He may just make the team because of his experience rather than form. The central defence is young and has to be seen if they can stand up to the challenge of world class forwards like Robin Van Persie and Cristiano Ronaldo whom they have to face in the group stages.
In midfield Löew has an embarrassment of riches. Bastian Schweinsteiger is the main lynchpin who can play as a holding midfielder as well as the deep playmaker. Sami Khedira will play the main holding role. Mesut Özil, Toni Kroos and Lukas Podolski will be the attacking midfield trio with Kroos at the centre. Podolski will play as a left sided midfielder who will be more like a winger who will play as the second striker in case the formation is changed to a 4-4-2. The flexibilty of the German midfield is that very strong young players like Thomas Müller, the golden boot winner of the last world cup, Mario Götze-the German Messi, André Schürrle, Marco Reus and the Bender twins will be pushing the established names for positions in the starting line-up. A very exciting line-up which has a good mix of experience and youth.
Löew has chosen only three forwards in his provisional list. Mario Gomez who has been in outstanding form should be the first choice. The experienced Miroslav Klose will be always around in international tournaments and has had a good season with Lazio. Cacau is another player who will be in the squad for his trickery around the box. The reason for just three forwards is the huge number of young attacking mid-fielders who can all play as forwards giving the team a lot of variety.
Goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer , Tim Wiese and Marc-André ter Stegen.
Defenders: Philipp Lahm, Per Mertesacker, Jérôme Boateng, Holger Badstuber, Mats Hummels, Benedikt Höwedes and Marcel Schmelzer.
Midfielders: Bastian Schweinsteiger, Lukas Podolski, Mesut Özil, Toni Kroos, Sami Khedira, Thomas Müller, Mario Götze, André Schürrle, Lars Bender and Sven Bender/Marco Reus.
Forwards: Mario Gomez, Miroslav Klose and Cacau.
Prediction: Germany invariably does well in international tournaments. This Euro should be no exception. The team should top the group ahead of the Netherlands. The quarterfinals should be an easier match against either Czech Republic or Greece. The semi finals would be against France or Italy who would be likely quarter-final opponents. It will be a difficult semi-final but Die Mannschaft should prevail and face Spain in the final possibly reversing the result of the last two international meetings between the sides to lift their first international trophy since 1996.