Germany are currently second behind Spain as favourites to win Euro 2012 and they will have a huge say in which nation lifts the trophy.
Joachim Loew is so confident in his side’s ability to challenge for the title he has only deemed to bring three recognised strikers with him to Poland and Ukraine.
Those three are Bayern Munich’s Mario Gomez, Miroslav Klose of Lazio and new Arsenal signing Lukas Podolski, while Brazilian-born striker Cacau was sent home after the final cut was made yesterday.
Fluidity seems to be the key word with this German squad and the adaptability of their players means they will have the ability to change shape easily, avoiding being stuck in a rigid system.
Loew’s side were many fans’ second team at the World Cup in South Africa two years ago, mainly due to the exciting nature of their play and the exuberance with which they went about dismantling England and Argentina in the knock-out rounds.
The squad is made up of the type of players that make it possible for them to play a brand of ‘total football’ created by close neighbours and rivals Holland.
There are expectations of a Germany side fearless with the confidence of youth, brought about by the knowledge that the average age of the squad is just over 24.
Much has been made of the psychological damage Bayern’s loss to Chelsea may have on their players that are part of the national team, but this has been overstated.
Penalty shoot-out losses will always leave mental scars, but the players of the Bavarian side can take confidence from the fact that it was not their defence that failed against Chelsea – only a brilliant header by Didier Drogba was enough to beat Manuel Neuer in goal.
This is an important distinction because Germany’s back four is largely made up of Bayern’s, with only Mats Hummels of Borussia Dortmund likely to be selected from any other side – though even he was a former Bayern player.
Jupp Heynckes’ side only conceded 22 times in the Bundesliga last season and only seven times in the Champions League, so they are quite clearly a solid defensive side.
Midfield is where Germany have the most strength and the quality the can call on is almost an embarrassment of riches: Mesut Ozil, Thomas Mueller, Sami Khedira, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mario Gotze, Toni Kroos and the incredibly exciting Marco Reus of Borussia Monchengladbach, could all get into most other midfields at the tournament.
Reus will be one to watch from those mentioned; he is a supremely talented young player and can just as easily play up front as in midfield – he actually plays in a very advanced role for his club side.
Ozil has kept Kaka out of the Real Madrid side last season and was level with Lionel Messi for the most assists in the league.
The three strikers will likely be inundated with service from the midfield, as Gotze, Mueller, Kroos and Reus all have good records when it comes to providing assists.
It is always difficult to look past Spain when deciding upon the best team at the competition, but Germany will be running the reigning champions extremely close.
They may not have quite the same ability to hold onto possession, but they do have something Spain do not – pace to burn.
Tiki-taka is the pinnacle of ball retention, but the Germans’ pace with Mueller, Reus and Podolski on the break is incredible and they will be almost certainly be the most dangerous counter-attacking side in the competition.
South Africa was just a taster of what this German side can do. To their infectious exuberance, they have acquired some young players with much greater pace and technical ability.
It feels like their time has come and we could be about to witness a maturing generation of football superstars.
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