CaughtOffside correspondent Jason Mitchell takes a closer look at the participants at next month’s Euro 2012 finals.
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Germany enter Euro 2012 ranked by most bookmakers as 2nd favourites to win the competition. Although their impressive 2010 World Cup performance is partially responsible for those high expectations, it is their qualification campaign which goes furthest towards explaining why Germany are so widely tipped to be contenders.
To say that Germany dominated European Championship Qualification Group A would actually be a massive understatement. In a group containing Turkey, Austria and a hugely promising Belgium team, Joachim Löw’s side emerged with a 100% record, 10 wins out of 10. They also scored 34 goals and conceded just 7.
One of the key features of this German squad is the versatility of the defensive players. Löw’s defensive options are aided by captain Philipp Lahm’s ability to play at both right and left full back and by Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng’s ability to play at both full back and in central defence. In addition, Arsenal’s Per Mertesacker has recovered from injury and can potentially add an extra dimension to the side with his height. This essentially gives Löw total flexibility in choosing the best defensive unit to combat the primary threats of different sides.
Another major feature of the squad is the immense strength in depth it possesses. This is perhaps best demonstrated by the fact that Mario Gomez, hot off the back of a season in which he scored a staggering 41 goals, is not guaranteed a starting place. Indeed, Lazio’s Miroslav Klose, who contributed 9 goals in qualifying, is actually widely tipped to play ahead of Gomez and lead the line in a flexible 4-2-3-1 formation.
Likewise, Dortmund’s attacking midfield sensation Mario Götze may also be limited to cameo appearances, despite the huge hype surrounding the youngster, who turns 20 just before the tournament gets underway.
Speaking of Götze, German FA Technical Director Matthias Sammar said, “He is one of the best talents we’ve ever had. He’s an exceptional player, has good speed, is extremely creative and has outstanding technical skills.” Yet Joachim Löw is likely to opt for the trio of Thomas Müller, Mesut Özil and Arsenal’s new summer acquisition, Lukas Podolski in support of Klose.
One of the biggest selection headaches for Löw will be his decision on who to pair with Bastian Schweinsteiger in central midfield. Once again though, this selection dilemma is the result of multiple top talents competing for the position. The choices for the position include Real Madrid’s Sami Khedira and Bayern Munich’s Tony Kroos, with the latter tipped to get the nod in some sections of the German media.
Although the side have had almost ideal preparation for the tournament in terms of qualifying results, it is worth noting that they were beaten 5-3 by Switzerland in a friendly in Basel, albeit with Löw making one or two experimental selections.
In addition, much of the squad is made up of Bayern Munich players, who may still be reeling from their defeat at the hands of Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League final.
However, Miroslav Klose does not expect the Bayern players to suffer any negative after effects.
“I know all [the Bayern players] and I’m sure they do not have a mental problem,” he told Bild. “We all wish them to have won the Champions League but unfortunately it turned out differently. Now we all hope that the guys are more ambitious than ever to win the European title with us.”
With the talent and depth in the German squad, do not bet against Germany adding another European Championship victory to their three existing wins in 1972, 1980 and 1996.
Possible First-Choice Starting XI
Philipp Lahm — Mats Hummels — Holger Badstuber — Marcel Schmelzer
Bastian Schweinsteiger — Toni Kroos
Thomas Müller — Mesut Özil — Lukas Podolski
Provisional Squad (still to be trimmed to 23):
Manuel Neuer, Marc-Andre der Stegen, Ron-Robert Zieler, Tim Wiese; Marcel Schmelzer, Benedikt Höwedes, Mats Hummels, Per Mertesacker, Philipp Lahm, Jerome Boateng, Holger Badstuber; Ilkay Gündogan, Sami Khedira, Mesut Özil, Andre Schürrle, Lukas Podolski, Mario Götze, Marco Reus, Julian Draxler, Sven Bender, Lars Bender, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Müller, Toni Kroos; Miroslav Klose, Mario Gomez, Cacau