Man that matters:
Mesut Ozil: It really is difficult to select one from among Germany’s uber-talented assembly. Between Bayern men Manuel Neuer, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mario Gomez, plus Mario Götze, Lukas Podolski and Ozil, take your pick. But it was Ozil who became the surprise revelation of World Cup 2010, the driving force of Germany’s effervescent attack. Just 23 at the time, his bold and skillful showings garnered nominations for the Golden Ball (player of the tournament) – not to mention being the inspiration of a high-profile move from Werder Bremen to Real Madrid.
June 9: vs. Portugal (Lviv, Ukraine)
June 13: vs. Netherlands (Kharkiv, Ukraine)
June 17: vs. Denmark (Lviv, Ukraine)
Foursome of knowledge:
- Joachim Low picked up right where (current American coach) Jurgen Klinsmann left off, fashioning a side that enjoys possession but also wants to get vertical and attack with high-pressure and an intimidating verve. And it’s working, thanks to a still-young generation of skilled, flexible attackers. Low has guided Germany to second place at Euro 2008 and third place at South Africa 2010.
- What a dazzling array of midfield choices Low enjoys, not just for the talent but for the versatility of Bayern Munich teammates Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos and Thomas Mueller. Schweinsteiger, blessed with a great soccer brain to go with all his power and ability, can play pretty much wherever he wants, withdrawn more defensively or in roles further up the field. Mueller, who can play centrally, along the right or as a forward, was the co-top scorer at World Cup 2010.
- All that said, it could be 19-year-old Mario Gotze who rises from Poland/Ukraine as the Mannschaft’s major star. Creative, quick and skillful, the burgeoning German attacker just led Borussia Dortmund to a second consecutive Bundesliga crown.
- Germany should be a joy team to watch, even for neutrals. This is not the hard, pragmatic teams of the past, which prevailed reliably through clockwork organization and determination. Under the tactically astute Low, the current version is a lightning strike of movement across the midfield and forward lines. Collectively, the team sports a resonating balance of technical proficiency, fluid movement and risk-taking, all married with just the right balance of tackling and organization.
Where they are going:
All the way, perhaps? Oddsmakers have installed the Germans as second favorites, tucked only slightly behind Spain. Given Schweinsteiger’s commanding midfield presence and the embarrassment of attacking riches on Low’s 23-man roster, Germany could overwhelm any side (perhaps even Spain) if it locates the perfect groove.
Goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer (FC Bayern München), Tim Wiese (SV Werder Bremen), Ron-Robert Zieler (Hannover 96).
Defenders: Holger Badstuber (FC Bayern München), Jérôme Boateng (FC Bayern München), Benedikt Höwedes (FC Schalke 04), Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund), Marcel Schmelzer (Borussia Dortmund), Philipp Lahm (FC Bayern München), Per Mertesacker (Arsenal FC).
Midfielders: Lars Bender (Bayer 04 Leverkusen), Toni Kroos (FC Bayern München), Thomas Müller (FC Bayern München), Mesut Özil (Real Madrid CF), Sami Khedira (Real Madrid CF), Marco Reus (VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach), André Schürrle (Bayer 04 Leverkusen), Bastian Schweinsteiger (FC Bayern München), Mario Götze (Borussia Dortmund), İlkay Gündoğan (Borussia Dortmund).
Forwards: Miroslav Klose (S.S. Lazio), Mario Gomez (FC Bayern München), Lukas Podolski (1. FC Köln).
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