Germany close off the year with two matches south of the Alps. First there’s the World Cup qualifier against San Marino in Serravalle, followed by a friendly meeting against old foes Italy at the San Siro in Milan. This “Italian Job” sees Nationaltrainer Jogi Löw turn to youth, with three new faces in an enlarged twenty-five man squad – all from the Under-21 ranks.
Germany’s last encounters with the minnows from San Marino took place during the qualifiers for Euro 2008, when Löw’s side found the net no fewer than nineteen times in the two matches, including a record 13-0 win in Serravalle. As the team look to conform their place at the top of the group at the turn of the year, they will be hoping for a repeat performance.
The last match against Italy came at Euro 2016, when the Mannschaft overcame the Azzurri in a competitive international for the first time after a memorable penalty shootout. Recent friendly matches have seen a number of stalemates between the two powerhouses, but the last meeting was a good one for the Germans. On a fine night in Munich, Jogi’s Jungs stormed to a 4-1 victory with goals from Toni Kroos, Mario Götze, Jonas Hector and Mesut Özil.
No change in goal
There are new names aplenty elsewhere, but the coach sticks with his three regular goalkeepers. Captain Manuel Neuer will surely wear the armband against the San Marinese, but one would expect one of his two understudies to get some match mate in Milan. Barcelona’s Marc-André ter Stegen could well get the nod ahead of Bernd Leno, who has been part of a stuttering Bayer Leverkusen side this season.
Two new faces at the back
Two of the three new faces join a ten-man defensive cadre. VfL Wolfsburg’s Yannick Gerhardt has played in the all of the Wolves’ Bundesliga outings this season after signing from 1. FC Köln, and makes the move up to senior level after racking up ten outings for the Under-21s. Alongside him is young Leverkusen starlet Benjamin Henrichs, who has also made a breakthrough this season. An ever-present this season for the Werkself, the nineteen year old played at both left- and right-back.
There are no other changes to the last Kader selected for the matches against the Czech Republic and Northern Ireland, but Jonathan Tah is back in the mix – one of five Leverkusen players in the squad.
Gnabry in, Draxler and Özil rested
There are some small tweaks to the ten-man group of midfield players, with Julian Draxler and Mesut Özil both rested. The new face is Serge Gnabry, one of the stars of Germany’s silver-medal winning Olympic team. Gnabry is the first Bremen player to be named in a national squad since Aaron Hunt in May 2013.
Up front, Wolfsburg’s Mario Gómez returns to the squad after recovering from the injury that forced him to drop out of the previous two matches. The big striker will be looking to add to his total of twenty-nine international goals, with San Marino a particularly juicy target.
Rounding out the year
The semi-final defeat against France at Euro 2016 will always be seen as something that could have been, bit overall it has been a decent enough year for Jogi Löw and his team. The DFB’s faith in Löw has been illustrated by an extension of his contract until 2020, which will allow him to have another crack at winning that elusive European crown.
Jogi has often divided opinion and some of his tactical choices have left even me baffled, but overall there is no better man to be holding the reins at the moment. The magical figure of one-hundred victories is clearly in his sights, and one more tournament win will secure his position as the most successful Nationaltrainer in history. The records will surely continue to tumble as we move towards to next World Cup finals in Russia.
Elsewhere, legendary record-holding goalscorer Miroslav Klose recently announced his retirement from the professional game, closing his final chapter in Italy with Lazio. Miro has been given a role at the DFB, and is the latest addition to the array of high-quality ex-players involved with the German team.
Bernd Leno (Bayer 04 Leverkusen, 2/0)
Manuel Neuer (FC Bayern München, 74/0)
Marc-André ter Stegen (FC Barcelona, 7/0)
Jérôme Boateng (FC Bayern München, 67/1)
Yannick Gerhardt (VfL Wolfsburg, 0/0)
Jonas Hector (1. FC Köln, 24/1)
Benjamin Henrichs (Bayer 04 Leverkusen, 0/0)
Benedikt Höwedes (FC Schalke 04, 42/2)
Mats Hummels (FC Bayern München, 53/4)
Joshua Kimmich (FC Bayern München, 9/1)
Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal FC, 14/1)
Sebastian Rudy (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, 11/0)
Jonathan Tah (Bayer 04 Leverkusen, 2/0)
Julian Brandt (Bayer 04 Leverkusen, 4/0)
Serge Gnabry (SV Werder Bremen, 0/0)
Leon Goretzka (FC Schalke 04, 1/0)
İlkay Gündoğan (Manchester City, 18/4)
Sami Khedira (Juventus Turin, 68/6)
Toni Kroos (Real Madrid CF, 74/12)
Max Meyer (FC Schalke 04, 3/1)
Thomas Müller (FC Bayern München, 81/36)
Kevin Volland (Bayer 04 Leverkusen, 8/0)
Julian Weigl (BV 09 Borussia Dortmund, 3/0)
Mario Gómez (VfL Wolfsburg, 68/29)
Mario Götze (BV 09 Borussia Dortmund, 60/17)