Germany - the best bet to dethrone Spain?
Since their Euro 2008 triumph, Spain has been a nearly indomitable force in world football. Boasting the likes of Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta in their ranks, along with many other players who are possibly the best of their generation, Spain have successfully shed their tag of ‘underachievers’ at the international stage by winning the 2010 FIFA World Cup and historically lifting the Euro 2012 trophy, thus becoming the first the first nation ever in the history of football to win two consecutive Euros (2008 and 2012) along with a World Cup in between. These victories certainly did not disappoint pundits as Spain went into both these tournaments as favourites. But of course, no good thing lasts forever. So we might as well ask the question: “Who will take over from Spain?”.
Three-time World and European champions Germany – one of the most successful footballing nations in the world – are, in my opinion, the favourites to dethrone Spain. Thanks to the revolutionary youth system introduced by the German Football Federation (DFB) after a disappointing Euro 2000, Germany currently possess a wealth of attacking and goalkeeping talent which other nations, considering their current national pools, can only dream of matching.
Let us take a look at the current Germany squad department-wise:
1) Goalkeeping: Even after the rise of brilliant young goalkeepers like Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Ron-Robert Zieler, Manuel Neuer still seems to be Joachim Low’s undisputed no.1 goalkeeper. He surely will have a selection headache in the near future as the new young goalkeepers are improving at a tremendous rate and they will surely be hard to overlook if they continue to develop in the same way. Thus, there is absolutely no problem for Low in the goalkeeping department.
2) Defence: Germany has arguably the best full-back in the world – none other than captain Philipp Lahm. Jerome Boateng is another versatile defender who can play either as a centre-back or as a full-back when required. Other defenders like Mats Hummels, Benedikt Howedes and Holger Badstuber are some of the best young-and-upcoming centre-backs of their generation. Sebastian Jung and Marcel Schmelzer are both promising full-backs whom Low can utilise if he decides playing Boateng as a centre-back rather than a full-back (he usually plays as a centre-back for Bayern Munich). Veteran defender Per Mertesacker can be a worthy backup even though he is finding it difficult to break into the first team nowadays. This defence might look immaculate on paper, but it has been the only chink in Germany’s armour in recent times and Low needs to address it as quickly and effectively as possible.
3) Midfield: Low prefers Schweinseiger-Khedira as the 2 and Podolski-Ozil-Muller as the 3 in his 4-2-3-1 formation for important matches. However, some extraordinarily talented midfielders like Toni Kroos, Mario Gotze, Julian Draxler, Lewis Holtby (attacking), Ilkay Gundogan, Lars Bender (central), Andre Schurrle, Marco Reus (can play either as a forward or as an attacking midfielder), etc. have only managed to feature occasionally on Low’s starting line-up, mostly for not-so-important games. But these young players are still developing and are yet to reach their peak, so you can bet that Low’s going to have another massive selection headache, this time for selecting his midfield combination(s). They would have been a sure-shot selection for each vital game if they all had been born in different countries, such is the quality they possess, and such is the embarrassment of riches Germany have in the midfield! If you observe carefully, you will realise that not even Spain have such a formidable bench bursting with talent.
4) Forward Line: This is the only area where Germany seems to be a little lacking – not in quality, but in quantity. Low usually decides between Mario Gomez and veteran Miroslav Klose for the lone striker role. Both have a decent scoring record, though Gomez is sometimes criticised for his slow work rate. Some other players like Lukas Podolski and youngster Patrick Hermann are also capable of performing this role.
There have been suggestions that Low might eventually opt for a ‘false 9′ instead of the traditional striker; this could turn out to be a key decision for their World Cup campaign, as it will result in their attacking play becoming more fluid which has been seen in the case of Spain (Euro 2012) and FC Barcelona.
Both Spain and Germany have contrasting yet entertaining styles of play: On one hand, Spain’s game is based on a patient build-up and slick passing while Germany dominate their opponents with their breathtaking and breakneck-speed counter-attacking football. Both teams have met a couple of times in the last five years (Euro 2008 final and 2010 World Cup semi-final), but Germany were outclassed on both occasions. But if they meet in the 2014 World Cup , it might be completely different story if Low manages to sort out the niggling problems at the back and if the team finally stops messing things up at the business end of the tournament.
Will Germany be the next World champions? Only time will tell.