Over the weekend, we previewed the European Championships with a look most of the 16 teams in the competition. We decided to wait until today, though, to give the German National Team their own look. With the final 23-man roster determined, we finally have enough material to give a deep preview. And while we're on the subject, our thanks to Wesher for breaking the story of the final roster numbers.
Here's how the the roster breaks down for Die Nationalelf:
GK: Neuer, Wiese, Zieler
D: Badstuber, Boateng, Höwedes, Hummels, Lahm, Mertesacker, Schmelzer
MF/Wings: Bender, Götze, Gündogan, Khedira, Kroos, Müller, Özil, Podolski, Reus, Schürrle, Schweinsteiger
Strikers: Gomez, Klose
As I said last week, Mertesacker is hopefully not a first-choice option at CB. Coming off an injury, he didn't look sharp the other day, and it seems like we have plenty of better options back there. Looks like Badstuber and Hummels will probably (hopefully?) be our starting CB pair. Both Höwedes and Boateng can deputize at CB, and one of them will also probably play RB, with Lahm moving to the left.
The other option would be Schmelzer at LB and Lahm at right, where he looked rejuvenated for Bayern in the second half of the year. But Schmelzer doesn't have a lot of experience at the international level, and Höwedes actually looked decent in that right corner the other day.
Up front, it's a straight-up either/or decision for Löw. Klose has the experience, the touch, and the knack for coming up big for Germany. Gomez has the big numbers in club play over the 2 years, and has been consistently facing tough competition this year (Bundesliga + Champions League vs. Serie A + Europa). If it were up to me, Klose would be getting the start ... but then, my confidence in Gomez is at an all-time low. More on this later in the summer.
In the midfield / wing level, there are a few more wrinkles. The national side is often said to run a 4-1-4-1, but in practice, there isn't really much difference between a 4-1-4-1 and a 4-2-3-1. It's not like the team will leave a single defensive midfielder to do all the tackling and cover the entire field sideline to sideline. Even under a 4-1-4-1, one of the forward middie line (the frontward "4") will be at the ready to take a step back and help defend. So, however you want to define them, we'll have 4 defenders, 1 striker, and 5 guys in between them: 2 wings, 1 holding middie who plays offense and defense, another middie who might lean forward into attack a bit more, but is still ready to get back and tackle/win balls/contribute to build-up play, and 1 true attacking middie / second-striker type.
Anyway, here's how I'd line them up:
Müller - Özil - Götze
Schweinsteiger - Kroos
Lahm - Badstuber - Hummels - Höwedes
Back line, you could certainly make a case for Boateng at RB, or Schmelzer - Lahm as the FBs. But I like what Benedikt brings, and we might need Boateng at CB for a few minutes. Lahm should be able to swap sides without too much difficulty. The midfield is the tougher spot - Khedira is a good deep player who could pair well with Bastian, Podolski has the scoring touch, and Reus has the speed and the quick counter-punch ability. Those 3 would be the toughest omissions from the starting line-up.
Khedira will probably get a good bit of playing time, and he may well start. I just think that Kroos looked pretty solid in the Champions League Final - everyone knew he had the touch and the shot, but Kroos and Bastian combined to defend pretty well, winning most of the loose balls and preventing Chelsea from generating sustained pressure. If they could play the same way this summer, I like those 2 as the CDM pair (or Bastian as the CDM and Kroos as the forward-middie who plays a more defensive role, if you prefer).
Reus makes an interesting argument for inclusion, and he could also fill in at striker if he has to. But I don't think he has the international experience, and he's probably better off as an "instant-offense" super-sub.
Poldi probably would feel most aggrieved by my line-up. He DOES have the international experience, he has a record of scoring goals in big international matches, and he could argue that he's more fit than Götze. I just included MG in the starting line-up because he looked solid the other say vs. Switzerland and because he's probably a better passer. But I'd be totally fine with Podolski starting over him, and with Khedira playing next to Bastian (with Kroos coming in as a sub).
The only thing I wouldn't be fine with is breaking up the Müller - Özil pairing. The 2 of them both have the complete skill set: good positioning, touch, passing, and a feel for the game. But more importantly, they play well with each other - almost impossibly well for a pair of guys who only spend a few weeks a year together. When one is running through a long pass and the other is finding a soft spot in the defense where he can receive the ball, you can start to see what this team is really capable of; with those 2 next to one another, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. They're like the Jimmy Darmody and Richard Harrow of international football:
So, anyway, that's my 11. I'm sure everyone has their own idea, though. Do most people think Gomez should be getting the start over Miro? How much faith do we have in the Badstuber - Hummels pairing? Who are the most useful second-half subs if the offense starts to bog down? Everyone is welcome to share thoughts, but please be polite and don't make any personal attacks. Thanks for reading.