As part of our World Cup coverage, we have interviewed journalists, correspondents, experts & writers representing each of the 32 countries to give you, the readers, a better understanding of the 32 nations participating in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Here are the list of interviewees.
For this interview, focusing on Germany, we spoke to WhoScored’s German football expert, Daniel Busch. Follow him on Twitter @dan_bu
Along with Spain, Germany have been the most consistent national team at the big stage. But unlike their European counterparts, they have nothing to show for it. What do you think is the reason for it? Is it a tactical issue or more to do with mentality?
That is hard to answer. Germany had done very well in 2010, before they were eliminated in the semi-finals by Spain, who were better with and without the ball. The matches against Argentina and England before have proved Germany’s tactical and mental strength. The main difference against Spain though was simply quality and experience.
In 2012, manager Löw admitted tactical mistakes, after his team has been beaten by Italy. He had introduced an additional central midfielder in Kroos, to put pressure on Pirlo, but did not want to sacrifice Özil, so played him wide. Germany therefore lacked structure and width and could not play to their strengths. The mentality has never been in question, although many criticize the German team for not having old-fashioned leaders. The Bayern players’ winning mentality could make a difference this time.
Miroslav Klose is the only player in the squad who is comfortable playing as a lone striker through the centre. You can argue that the likes of Podolski, Schurrle & Volland can do so as well but they’re more confident in wide areas. That leaves Muller as the only real option, but not the greatest. Does this dependence on Klose concern you? Can you see one of the others take up the central role?
It does not concern me, as Löw experimented without a natural striker in the past and deliberately decided to leave players like Gomez and Lasogga at home, as they lack fitness and several (technical) qualities needed to succeed in the German system. Klose is the most complete striker out of Germany’s classic number nines, but has been injured for parts of the season as well. If he gets dropped for tactical or physical reasons, I could see Müller playing a good part up front, with his ability to find spaces and his directness in front of the goal, but he is more comfortable on the right. Götze would be another option, who can draw defenders out of position with intelligent runs and has the ability to bring the wide players into scoring positions.
All in all, there are many options and we could see a very versatile system in the end, with players switching positions in course of a game. In a possible front four of Reus, Özil, Müller and Götze, everyone has the ability to score and find spaces up front. It remains to be seen, how manager Löw will find the right balance there.
German football is always blessed with spectacular talents at its disposal with an attractive production cycle that always seems to deliver quality individuals. But for the likes of Lahm, Podolski, Schweinsteiger, Klose, this remains the last opportunity to win. How much of an influence will they have on the side, both mentally & tactically?
Although I could see Lahm, Schweinsteiger and Podolski possibly getting another shot at a World Cup trophy, these players are certainly at the peak of their career or slightly behind it. Their influence on the team is huge and with their enormous experience, they will certainly play a very important role for younger players to look up to. Tactically Lahm and Schweinsteiger can make the difference and carry the manager’s plans onto the pitch, while providing the younger players with orientation, but players like Mertesacker, Khedira, Özil and Müller have made a significant step forward in the last few years as well, playing regularly at the top in Europe.
The Europeans have a poor record at the big tournament on South American soil. Do you really see this becoming a factor? What would the players and management need to do to overcome this supposed ‘handicap’?
In these difficult climatic conditions, retaining possession and making your opponents do the running could be very important for Germany to save energy for the latter stages of the long tournament. They are less obsessed with possession than Bayern and do not have as complete a pressing game as Dortmund, but finding the right balance there will be key. The huge pool of midfielders and attacking talent to pick from, could give Löw the chance to rotate a bit, without sacrificing much creativity and scoring ability. Regeneration between games will be very important.
The attractive football that Germany put out leave many in awe. Their pool of talent leaves rivals immersed in jealousy. And their record at big tournaments is largely unmatched. But surely, surely there’s a weakness.
Keeping clean sheets has been a problem for Germany against quality opposition and the left-back position is certainly the weak spot, with Dortmund players Schmelzer and Durm competing for it at the moment. Central midfielders Schweinsteiger and Khedira missed huge parts of the season due to injury, so it remains to be seen, if and when they will be fully fit again. Because of that and the potential lack of stability, manager Löw would certainly love to use Lahm in two roles, at right-back and in central midfield.
We at Outside of the Boot track the progress of youngsters under our Talent Radar feature. The German national team has certainly left our mouths watering in that regard. But which youngster do you really see making an impact at this World Cup?
Götze would be the obvious call, but there are also Draxler and Durm in this age class. If the latter gets a chance at left-back and leaves a good impression in the first game against Ronaldo’s Portugal, I could see him making a surprising impact in the potentially weakest spot of the German team.
Germany’s group is anything but straightforward with neither of the other three posing as assured wins. One though, would expect them to progress; but how far do you really see them going? What would potentially be labelled as a failure?
After four semi-finals in as many tournaments, reaching the last four again should be the target. Anything less would most likely be labelled as a failure. Depending on the team’s performance in the opening game, the confidence could rise significantly and carry them all the way, but Spain, Brazil and the other South American teams pose big threats.