Whenever there is a FIFA World Cup or a UEFA Euro to be played, Germany go into the tournament as one of the favourites or if they are not then they become one of them over the course of these tournaments.
And then one can remind oneself of former England striker and now television presenter Gary Lineker’s famous quote, “Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.”
The 2016 UEFA European Championships in France might just be another such competition, where Germany under Coach Joachim Löw will want to build on their reputation of being a national football team which excels at the big tournaments.
The 2014 FIFA World Cup champions, who had won their fourth world title in style with especially the 7-1 demolition of hosts Brazil in the semifinals in everyone’s mind, did not have the best of Euro qualifiers losing away to Poland and Ireland but still they topped their qualification group ahead of Poland, Ireland, Scotland, Georgia and Gibraltar.
When Germany coach Joachim Löw on Tuesday, May 31 at the team’s training camp in the Swiss resort of Ascona announced his final 23 player’s squad for the 2016 European Championship, there were some surprises in store.
The sad injury history of Marco Reus continued as the talented Borussia Dortmund midfielder on his 27th birthday had to be left out of the final squad. After the 2010 & 2014 FIFA World Cup’s, Reus once again misses a big tournament, which is not only a personal tragedy for Reus, but also for Löw and his team as he loses one of his best attacking options.
Further all-rounder Sebastian Rudy (1899 Hoffenheim), winger Karim Bellarabi (Bayer 04 Leverkusen) and youngster Julian Brandt (Bayer 04 Leverkusen) were left out of the final 23, which meant that youngsters Joshua Kimmich (FC Bayern Munich), Julian Weigl (Borussia Dortmund), and Leroy Sané (FC Schalke 04) all found a place in the final Germany squad.
There was also good news in store for Löw as Germany’s medical team cleared currently injured defender Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund) and captain Bastian Schweinsteiger (Manchester United) to be a part of the squad though they both might miss some of the group matches, but they surely would be match fit for the important knockout matches, which shows that coach Löw is planning for a longer stay in France.
But then came on the first day after arriving in France, the training ACL tear of Antonio Rüdiger and the replacement call-up for young Jonathan Tah from Bayer 04 Leverkusen. With Hummels missing the first few games, his natural replacement Rüdiger out, Löw will have to find the right match for Jerome Boateng at the back.
Under the tagline ‘Vive la Mannschaft’, Germany go into the tournament with an aim to conquer France and their fourth UEFA Euro title with the biggest rivals for the title being hosts France and double defending champions Spain with FIFA World Rankings No. 1 Belgium being an outside contender as could be Italy and a young England.
But for Löw and his team it will not be an easy endeavour, then Germany will surely miss former captain Philipp Lahm, centre-back Per Mertesacker and striker Miroslav Klose, who all after Germany’s World Cup triumph in 2014 retired from international football. Finding one to one replacements has been difficult, but Löw thinks that the right preparation would give his squad a chance at lifting the UEFA Euro title once more.
Besides the above trio, Löw will also miss the services of midfielder Ilkay Gündogan, who misses the tournament like his Dortmund teammate Reus due to an injury. But Löw has also kept some players out of his squad, who he felt would not work well under him like Dortmund left-back Marcel Schmelzer or VfL Wolfsburg striker Max Kruse, who in recent months has had a few controversies too many. On the other hand Löw has once more trusted ageing Lukas Podolski to be a part of the squad, but the quickest player of the Bundesliga in Karim Bellarabi will have to watch the tournament from home.
Joachim Löw has his style of putting a squad together, his ways of working with a team and his kind of players, who he likes or not. In Germany not all agree with him and this is still so despite him winning the FIFA World Cup. Especially officials and fans of Borussia Dortmund feel that he could have picked more players from their side with only Mats Hummels and young Julian Weigl making the final squad. As mentioned above Gündogan and Reus are injured, Schmelzer isn’t to the liking of Löw but defenders Mathias Ginter and Erik Durm, both world champions, didn’t find space in the squad as didn’t utility player Sven Bender.
Joachim Löw over the last 10 years has achieved a lot with Germany. Since the 2006 FIFA World Cup at home, Germany has changed a lot as a football nation, be it its style, training methods and ways of approaching the game. The first results highlighting a new football Germany came at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The 2012 Euro’s in Poland and the Ukraine was another step forward though Germany lost to Italy in the semifinals, but 2014 was Germany’s year and it proved to the world that its golden generation of new footballers had reached their peak and deservingly won the FIFA World Cup. Now in France, Löw and his team aim to win their first European Championship title and Germany’s first in 20 years.
The squad has the potential to do it, especially after a typical German tournament preparation in Ascona and will continue in the same way during the tournament in Evian, which means it is a different side than which played the qualifiers or friendlies between big tournaments. Germany are ready and with an expanded 24 nation’s competition, it means that also the four best third-placed teams make it into the pre-quarterfinals. The fear of elimination at the Euro’s is much less and teams can settle in, allow recovering players come back from injuries and be ready for the knockout matches. This is the gamble that Löw has taken with Schweinsteiger and Hummels, knowing what both did for Germany in Brazil and what they could do in France.
At Euro 2016, Germany have been drawn in Group C alongside Ukraine, Poland and Northern Ireland. ‘Die Mannschaft’ kick off their campaign against the Ukraine on June 12 in Lille, before they face neighbours Poland on June 16 at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, while their final group game takes place on June 21 against Northern Ireland at the Park de Prince in Paris.