After a complete debacle against Mexico, the German National Team finds itself in a very precarious position. While qualification to the Round of 16 isn’t in jeopardy (yet), a draw (or worse, a loss) to Sweden could be catastrophic. For the Germans to get out of this mess that they themselves have created, changes will be needed. What kind of changes? Well ...
Second time’s the charm?
First of all, Jones Hector should be returning to the lineup. To be fair to Plattenhardt, he was adequate in the game against Mexico, but Hector’s return should add some much needed defensive stability to the German flanks. Meanwhile, almost everyone and their dog thinks that Marco Reus should have started the first game, and leaving him on the bench was an enormous gaffe by Joachim Löw.
That being said, no one really knows what the coach might be planning for Sweden Everyone thought they knew the lineup for the Mexico game, and Löw surprised — or rather, disappointed — people with his selections. Here are our best guesses:
John N. Dillon (4-2-3-1)
This lineup attempts to strengthen the areas that were weak last game without completely reinventing the team. In a nutshell, Ilkay Gundogan replaces Sami Khedira as central defensive midfielder — hopefully one that really defends. On offense, Marco Reus starts on the left wing, replacing Julian Draxler. Draxler could move to the 10 spot, but I think Löw will stick with Özil, who did not have as bad a game against Mexico as many think. Müller stays out right. At striker, Löw could opt to go for a big, physical target man in Gomez, since the Swedes are almost certainly going to close down the space that Timo Werner would normally need to run into.
Tom Adams (4-3-3)
From back to front, I think Löw will slot a healthy Hector right back in to left-back after Plattenhardt stood in for the Mexico match. In midfield, I think Sami Khedira’s performance warrants a relegation to the bench and I think that Müller can be far more effective as a more retreated midfielder as he often does for Bayern Munich; against Mexico, he wasn’t able to do enough from and advanced, wide position.
Reus and Brandt both made almost immediate differences once they came on vs. Mexico and I think both of them should definitely start vs. Sweden; they’re both used to playing wide attacking roles for their clubs and can provide the right service to Timo Werner ahead of them. As a bonus, if things are still level-pegging in the second half, I’d like to see Löw bring Gomez on and leave Werner on if feasible to see how we fare playing with two strikers as Werner so often does at Leipzig with Youssef Poulsen.
While Germany was the definition of ineffective against Mexico, some parts of the plan actually made sense. Using Kimmich and Hector as wingbacks is a much better use of their talent than playing them as regular fullbacks. However, that left Germany open to counterattacks on the wing. To rectify this, Niklas Süle should start in central defense. He can roam forward and provide much needed cover, as Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels drift wide to keep the opposition wingers quiet.
In midfield, the easiest way to fix things is to bring Leon Goretzka in for Sami Khedira. Goretzka is a great ball carrier and will do the box-to-box work in Khedira no longer can. With his support, Toni Kroos can be his usual deadly self, setting up a platform for the likes of Thomas Muller, Timo Werner, and Marco Reus to wreak havoc. If executed well, this formation should be able to handle anything the Swedes can muster.
UPDATE: LÖW SAYS THAT HUMMELS WILL NOT PLAY.
According to the German coach, Mats Hummels has problems with his cervical vertebra and will not feature against Sweden. Expect either Antonio Rudiger or Niklas Sule to play in his stead.