Fulham manager Felix Magath has publicly identified left-back Benedikt Höwedes as Germany’s weak link in the country's build up to their last-16 fixture against Algeria on Monday.
Höwedes, who by trade plays as a centre-back for Schalke 04 has started all of Germany’s World Cup group games in an uncommon full-back position, with manager Joachim Low preferring to stick with the partnership of Per Mertesacker and Mats Hummels in the core of defence.
The 26-year-old has struggled to find his bearings playing for Germany and has been criticised both defensively and offensively.
Several German football experts including Magath, who personally worked with Höwedes during his two year spell as the manager of Schalke between 2009 and 2011, believes that Low’s decision to play the Haltern born defender out of position is “mind-boggling”.
The 60-year-old personally believes that Höwedes is not offering anything to the rest of the team in the left-back position as he doesn't have the capability to press forward and give options to his midfield and attack minded comrades.
"Playing Benedkit Höwedes as a left-back remains one of our weak-points," he said in an interview with German newspaper Bild. "He is not able to offer anything in the way of attack as he is a football-player who doesn't have a left foot.”
The defender was publicly criticised for his performance in Germany’s slim 1-0 win against the USA with Höwedes failing to deliver crucial passes in the American half, whilst he was also judged to be giving the ball away to easily.
Whilst Magath feels that this problem will continue to go unnoticed by Low and the rest of the managing staff in Monday’s last-16 tie against Algeria, he believes that a team like France, a team that Germany could meet in the quarter-finals could expose this weak link.
He added: “In our upcoming games against much stronger opponents we are going to be too calculable, especially in the offensive area because we don’t have an additional option.
“That can be a problem, not in the second round, but presumably a lap later with France laying in waiting.”
Magath, who has also managed the likes of VfL Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich believes the decision to play both Höwedes and Jerome Boateng as full-backs is a tactical one in ensuring that the back-line becomes more defensively compact.
“The fact that Low played four centre-backs in his defensive line in the last group game gives an idea of his strategy for the rest of the tournament," he explained. "It gives the impression that the team will collectively get better from game to game.”
The Schalke captain, who is expected to start for Germany against Algeria on the left side of defence has stated that he never stepped forward to play in this position, but will be happy to continue playing in other areas of the field if it has a positive impact on the rest of the team and their chances in Brazil.
“I have never voiced my opinion that I am a gifted left-back," said Howedes. "However, if it helps the rest of the team, and we are successful then I am happy to play in this position.”
Despite openly criticising his country’s tactical decisions at the tournament, Magath believes that Low’s team will only go from strength to strength, and are serious contenders to win their fourth World Cup.
“You don’t play for the world title in the group games, but you play for progression. I expect this team to improve, and it will.”
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