Saturday, 2 June 2012

Germany at 2012- 1

The first of three post on my country's chances at next week's tournament.  Look away now if you're not a fan.  :o)

This article is part of the Guardian's Euro 2012 Experts' Network, a co-operation between 16 of the best media organisations from the countries who have qualified for the finals in Poland and Ukraine. is running previews from two countries each day in the runup to the tournament kicking off on 8 June.

Tactical analysis

When the German national side run out on 9 July for their first game in the European Championship against Portugal, most viewers outsideGermany will probably think: "Well, not a lot has changed there, then." For as long as no key players get injured in the meantime, the head coach, Joachim Löw, is likely to put out much the same team as attracted such attention at the World Cup in South Africa.
Manuel Neuer, now with Bayern Munich following his transfer from Schalke 04, will be in goal. Philipp Lahm will almost certainly be on the left side of defence, even though the right-footed defender is now playing on the right again for Bayern. His club colleague Jérôme Boateng will defend on the right, although at club level he prefers to do so in the centre.
The two defensive midfield slots will be taken by Bayern's Bastian Schweinsteiger, despite the injuries he has suffered during the second half of the season, and either Sami Khedira of Real Madrid or Toni Kroos. The 22-year-old Kroos returned to Bayern from his loan spell with Bayer Leverkusen and has become a regular at his second attempt at the club. Busying himself in front of the two nominally defensive midfielders will be Mesut Ozil of Real Madrid, accompanied respectively on right and left by the Bayern player Thomas Müller and Lukas Podolski, who despite Köln's disastrous season is in his best form for a long time.
The sole front man will be the unassuming captain, Miroslav Klose, who to the amazement of many has made his mark at Lazio with no problem at all.
Apart from the two central defenders, who will probably be Mats Hummels and Holger Badstuber, there are thus few new faces in this side compared with that of two years ago.
And in terms of tactics not much will have changed as it will again be 4-2-3-1, Löw's default system. That all sounds like solid continuity, which indeed it is. Nevertheless, for everyone who has taken their eye off the Germany team since the last World Cup, there's a good deal new to discover. Löw has brought his team on significantly. In their best moments, Klose, Müller and Ozil in particular develop an almost telepathic understanding with each other.
The three of them, as well as Schweinsteiger, have a remarkable feel for space and Klose is capable of filling gaps if the midfielders and defenders are momentarily unsure over who should take responsibility. The players switch positions with ease and constantly find free space, thus showing that the Germany side have clearly extended their repertoire.
While at the past few tournaments the team were a counterattacking side that relied above all on quickly breaking away from defence, they are now also capable of being successful playing a short-passing game.
On top of this comes the fact that the squad now has a depth that it did not have before. While the somewhat static Mario Gomez cannot fully replace Klose as the central striker, he has become a reliable goal machine this season. Mario Götze, Borussia Dortmund's great talent, can play in either Ozil's or Müller's position despite the many injuries he has suffered this season. Also available on the right is Marco Reus, this season's high flier at Borussia Mönchengladbach. If there are any doubts about this team, then they mainly concern the central defence. But even they are not dampening hopes to any great degree of Germany winning the title for the first time since 1996.

Who is the player who is going to surprise everyone at the Euros?

Although there is only a small chance of a big breakthrough like Müller's at the 2010 World Cup, Götze could be the biggest surprise, despite being injury- plagued in 2012.

Who is the player who is going to disappoint the most?

This is a difficult one as most of the players in the squad tend to not disappoint. But Mesut Ozil looked very tired towards the end of the season at Real Madrid and may find it difficult to recover for the Euros.

What is the realistic aim for your team at the Euros and why?

Winning it. After a good World Cup 2010 the German team has extended their style from a counterattacking one to also being happy on the ball. Some great new talent has been added, but maybe Germany are the new Holland, a team playing nicely but not winning the big prizes.

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