Marco Reus has replaced Mesut Özil, Sebastian Rudy replaces Sami Khedira, Jonas Hector replaces Marvin Plattenhardt, and Antonio Rüdiger replaces Mats Hummels. What does it mean?
Two of the changes are self explanatory: Jonas Hector is over the cold that sidelined him against Mexico, so Germany’s preferred starter at left-back is fit and ready to go. That is very good news for Germany, because Marvin Plattenhardt struggled to get involved in the game at all against Mexico.
In the central defense, Antonio Rüdiger has replaced an injured Mats Hummels. Hummels twisted his neck in training and was not expected to start. Although many think Hummels’s teammate at Bayern Munich, Niklas Süle, should have been tapped to replace him, it is no surprise that Jogi Löw has opted instead for Chelsea’s Antonio Rüdiger, who has served as his first choice to backup the starters for much longer than Süle.
The key changes are in the midfield and up front. The biggest surprise is of course Sebastian Rudy, who will play alongside Toni Kroos in place of Sami Khedira. Rudy will be tasked with maintaining the German team’s defensive stability when they are on the attack and will function also as the deeper lying half of a double-pivot with Kroos. The role is reminiscent of that of Javi Martinez on Jupp Heynckes’s Bayern team just this past season. Rudy played precisely the same role for Bayern on several occasions, as well, when Martinez was rested. Leon Goretzka, in contrast, is much more of an attacking midfielder, and it is not all too surprising that Löw would opt instead for the safer option in Rudy. Having Kroos to drive the attack while supporting the offense is enough in his eyes.
Finally, Marco Reus has pushed Mesut Özil out of Germany’s starting lineup. It is a minor revolution for a notoriously conservative coach, but many had called for Özil’s head after an ineffective performance against Mexico. The decision came down to a choice between benching Özil or Julian Draxler, who played far better on Germany’s left wing than Özil in the center. Reus is precisely the kind of dynamic playmaker that Germany can need, and he is undeniably hungry for international success, after missing the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Euros entirely due to injury.
If Germany’s midfield remains stable with Kroos and Rudy, then Reus will aim to coordinate Germany’s attackers and serve the ball to the wings or forward to Timo Werner. Löw’s subtle hyping of traditional striker Mario Gomez seems to have been merely a ruse.
Since Mexico dispatched South Korea earlier this morning, Germany now have no room for error. This lineup must succeed.