While the German team will no doubt enter Group G play as the team to beat, Joachim Low's recently announced roster does show a few imperfections. Blake Thomsen explains.
JOACHIM LOW NAMED
May 09, 2014
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his 30-man provisional roster
on Thursday, and given its extensive injury list, this Germany team looks a bit weaker than its No. 2 FIFA ranking suggests. Prolific striker Mario Gomez and center midfielder Ilkay Gundogan are the two biggest losses, and their absence may have a domino effect on the rest of the team.
Here are three thoughts on why Germany might not be quite as dominant as many American fans feared
1. Who’s going to play center mid?
Low’s roster only contains four realistic central midfield candidates. Bastian Schweinsteiger is a mortal lock to start, but after that is where it gets a little bit iffy.
The most logical choice would be Toni Kroos, who is similarly gifted on the ball as Schweinsteiger but shares his Bayern teammate’s lack of pace. One need only watch the highlights of Real Madrid’s Champions League evisceration of Bayern to see that the Schweinsteiger-Kroos duo can be comprehensively overrun on the counter by athleticism—the type of athleticism that Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones possess.
The next candidate is Sami Khedira. He’s a first-choice option when fit, but he hasn’t played since November 15 and may not play a minute for Madrid for the rest of the season. Will he be back to his best in Brazil? It’s highly, highly unlikely.
The last option is to play natural right back Philipp Lahm in a central midfield role. He’s excelled there for Bayern, but playing him in the midfield means leaving a somewhat gaping hole at right back. It’s a bit of a pick your poison situation for Low, who must sacrifice either the center of his midfield or his best defender in an already questionable backline.
2. Is this Germany or Arsenal?
Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal side has become infamous for having about a zillion creative midfield types, often at the expense of strikers and defenders. It must be said that this Germany side looks awfully similar.
Aside from 21-year-old Kevin Volland—who is a huge long shot to make the final 23—Miroslav Klose is the only true striker on Low’s roster. He’s obviously got a legendary World Cup track record, but he’ll also be 36 in Brazil and only has seven league goals this season. It’s doubtful that Klose will start, and that means Low will likely name four attacking midfielders as his four most advanced players.
Having four creative midfielders can produce a wide variety of results. When it’s working, Germany can play some of the slickest soccer in the world—“liquid football” as the Brits would say.
But having so many similar players—good on the ball without being too physically imposing—can lead to a highly predictable style of play. It’s a style that relies on quick interchanges, with little chance to cross or play balls over the top. If the U.S. (and Ghana and Portugal, for that matter) stays well-drilled and doesn’t leave much space for Ozil, Gotze, et al to create in the final third, Germany may struggle to score.
3. Potential Rifts within the Squad
The excellent German soccer writer Raphael Honigstein has suggested there may be some division within the German national team, with the tensions between Dortmund and Bayern players at an all-time high. Honigstein even went as far as to say that Dortmund right back Kevin Grosskreutz may miss out on the World Cup not because he isn’t good enough, but rather because he poses a significant risk to the already fragile team chemistry.
I don’t want to get ahead of myself and suggest this will derail Germany’s World Cup campaign. It’s worth noting that a little Iberian country called Spain has shrugged off its own intra-dressing room rivalries to be pretty successful over the last decade.
However, the 2010 France side crashed out in the group stage and the Netherlands met a similar fate in Euro 2012—and high-profile issues within the locker room likely contributed to both. Suffice it to say that while it's unlikely that team chemistry will haunt the ultra-talented Germans in Brazil, it’s also a distinct possibility.
What do you think about the German provisional roster? Does the U.S. have a chance against the mighty Germans? Let us know in the comments section below.
Blake Thomsen is a frequent ASN contributor. Follow him on Twitter, please. The kid knows his stuff.