5 national teams with the best midfield depth

Despite back-to-back underwhelming international campaigns, Germany's midfield remains exceptional.
Despite back-to-back underwhelming international campaigns, Germany's midfield remains exceptional.

The measured and meticulous style of international football means games are often won and lost in midfield. National teams take better care of the ball, play more short passes, and are not as direct as club sides.

Teams who retain possession and win battles in the middle of the park are the ones who usually make deep runs in international tournaments. For example, the finalists at this year's Euro 2020, Italy and England, averaged 54% and 52% possession during the tournament.

While trophies are never guaranteed, midfield depth goes a long way in international football

Dominating possession isn't a guarantee of success, as demonstrated by 2018 FIFA World Cup winners France (48.6%) and 2021 Copa America champions Argentina (49%).

However, the average ball-retention numbers of the losing finalists on both occasions - Croatia (56.6%) and Brazil (58%) - show the merits of having a strong midfield.

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On that note, here's a look at the five national teams with the best midfield depth at the moment:

Note: Only central, defensive and attacking midfielders have been taken into account. Wingers have been excluded.

#5 Germany

Germany have sailed through 2022 World Cup Qualifying to secure a direct ticket to Qatar.
Germany have sailed through 2022 World Cup Qualifying to secure a direct ticket to Qatar.

Die Mannschaft have always been known for their dominance in the middle of the park. Year after year, Germany produce exceptionally well-rounded midfielders who can do a bit of everything at a high level.

Euro 2020, though, was a nightmare for the Germans, who crashed out in the Round of 16 against rivals England. Their dismal tournament was followed by the retirement of veteran midfield star Toni Kroos and the resignation of long-term coach Joachim Low.

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On the bright side, Germany secured direct qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup after an utterly ruthless campaign. Hansi Flick's men won nine of their ten games. They had a goal difference of +32 to go with 75% possession and a 90% pass completion rate across the qualifying Round.

Options in midfield: Ilkay Gundogan, Leon Goretzka, Joshua Kimmich, Julian Brandt, Marco Reus, Kai Havertz, Florian Neuhaus, Florian Wirtz, Maximilian Arnold, Jamal Musiala, Ridle Baku.

#4 England

England boast a young and multi-faceted midfield.
England boast a young and multi-faceted midfield.

In a few years time, England might well have the best midfield in international football. As in other areas of the exciting Three Lions squad, the standout factor is youth. Outside of 31-year-old Jordan Henderson, none of England's central midfielders in their most recent international squad were above the age of 25.

Not only does Gareth Southgate have young midfielders, but more crucially, the manager also has a variety of players at his disposal.

The current England squad has a midfield that can do it all: pass, defend and score. This versatility is best exemplified by their recent Euro 2020 and World Cup Qualifying campaigns. Although they were both successful campaigns, they were still fundamentally different.

The Three Lions' run to the Euro 2020 final was fuelled by solidity as their double pivot of Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips neutralised opponents. Southgate's side conceded just twice in seven games, both of which came from set-pieces.

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In World Cup qualifying, though, England were rampant. They finished atop their group, and scored the most goals by any European team, netting 39 in ten games. Their share of possession jumped from around 50% at Euro 2020 to 73% in World Cup qualifying.

Adept at dominating lesser teams, England also have the depth in personnel to shut out elite sides, which is something that augurs well for their future.

Options in midfield: Declan Rice, Kalvin Phillips, Mason Mount, Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham, Conor Gallagher, Jesse Lingard, Emile Smith Rowe, Jordan Henderson, James Ward-Prowse.

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Edited by Bhargav
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