A fond farewell, and a warm welcome

The Winterpause is over, international football is back, and Germany get their 2017 fixtures underway with a prestige friendly against England in Dortmund before travelling to Baku to take on Azerbaijan as the World Cup qualifiers get rolling again.

Scratchy home record against England, perfect against Azerbaijan

Having blown a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 to the Three Lions in Berlin just under a year ago, Joachim Löw’s side will be looking for a better result at what has proved to be a fortress in the past. Apart from the one horrible defeat against Italy in the semi-finals of the 2006 World Cup, the Signal-Iduna Park Westfalenstadion has been a very successful venue for the Mannschaft.

While Germany have built up a great record against England both away from home and on neutral venues, their record on home soil has not been as good. Since the 3-1 win in Düsseldorf in 1987, they have lost all three of their home fixtures against the Three Lions. As well as friendly defeats in 2008 and 2016, there was also the infamous 5-1 defeat in Munich’s Olympiastadion in 2001.

By contrast, Germany have a perfect record against Azerbaijan, a team that has frequently cropped up in tournament qualifiers in recent years. There have been four matches played between the two teams, and German have so far won all four with a goals tally of fifteen scored and two conceded. The most recent fixture was in June 2011 in Baku, where the Nationalelf ran out 3-1 winners en route to the Euro 2012 finals in Poland and Ukraine.

Tschüß Poldi, Willkommen Werner

The twenty-three man squad sees few major changes from that selected for the last matches of 2016, but among them are two names representing the old and the new. The match against England will be a farewell for Lukas Podolski, who after thirteen years in the Nationaltrikot will be finally hanging up his boots. Having made his debut as a teenager in 2004, this will be the Galatasaray man’s 130th appearance. In his previous 129 matches, he has scored 48 goals – the team’s third-highest scorer of all time behind former strike partner Miroslav Klose and 1970s legend Gerd Müller.

Podolski started his international career quickly, and was voted the best young player at the 2006 FIFA World Cup. At one point he was averaging a goal every other game, but as injuries started to take their toll this would soon start to dry up. Having been stuck on 47 goals for a while, he would eventually move ahead of Rudi Völler on the all-time goalscorers list with a goal against Australia in Kaiserslautern.

The retirement of Podolski sees the end of an era, following the retirement of Bastian Schweinsteiger last year. Together, “Poldi” and “Schweini” were the two characters who defined the new era of German football introduced by Jürgen Klinsmann and shaped by Jogi Löw.

At the other end of the scale, RB Leipzig’s Timo Werner makes his first appearance in a senior squad list. Bundesliga new boys Leipzig have surprised many in their first season in the top flight, and much of this has been down to the energetic Werner with fourteen goals in twenty-two matches. In a league dominated by foreign strikers, the twenty-one year old is arguably one of the best German talents to emerge in recent years.

Ringing the changes

The Nationaltrainer has made a number of changes, mainly further up the field. The goalkeeping trio remains the same, and a slightly reduced defensive unit sees the return of AS Roma’s Antonio Rüdiger and TSG Hoffenheim’s Niklas Süle return. Senior pro Jérôme Boateng is still making his way back to match fitness, Jonathan Tah is not quite fully fit, while youngsters Yannick Gerhard and Benjamin Henrichs both return to the Under-21 squad.

There are plenty of changes in midfield, where there are many excellent names to choose from. Julian Draxler and Mesut Özil return both return after being given a break for the last round of matches, Emre Can is back in the mix after a spell out through injury, and flying winger Leroy Sané is back in the squad after his summer move from Schalke 04 to Manchester City. The experienced André Schürrle is also recalled. Then there is the squad’s only remaining centurion, Podolski.

Despite his lightning start at senior level, Werder Bremen’s Serge Gnabry is back in the Under-21 squad, along with Leon Goretzka. The out of form Max Meyer and Kevin Volland both miss out, while İlkay Gündoğan is still recovering from injury.

The other name missing from the previous squad is Mario Götze, who has been the subject of much speculation regarding his fitness in recent months. Having not hit the heights following his return to Borussia Dortmund, The Mannschaft’s World Cup final hero is looking to recover fully having been diagnosed with a major health problem. We can only hope that we see him in the Nationaltrikot again soon.

Goalkeepers:

Bernd Leno (Bayer 04 Leverkusen, 3/0)
Manuel Neuer (FC Bayern München, 74/0)
Marc-André ter Stegen (FC Barcelona, 8/0)

Defence:

Jonas Hector (1. FC Köln, 25/3)
Benedikt Höwedes (FC Schalke 04, 43/2)
Mats Hummels (FC Bayern München, 55/4)
Joshua Kimmich (FC Bayern München, 11/1)
Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal FC, 15/1)
Antonio Rüdiger (AS Roma, 11/0)
Sebastian Rudy (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, 12/0)
Niklas Süle (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, 1/0)

Midfield/Forwards:

Julian Brandt (Bayer 04 Leverkusen, 4/0)
Emre Can (Liverpool FC, 7/0)
Julian Draxler (Paris Saint-Germain, 27/3)
Mario Gómez (VfL Wolfsburg, 69/29)
Sami Khedira (Juventus Turin, 69/7)
Toni Kroos (Real Madrid CF, 74/12)
Thomas Müller (FC Bayern München, 83/36)
Mesut Özil (Arsenal FC, 83/21)
Lukas Podolski (Galatasaray Istanbul, 129/48)
Leroy Sané (Manchester City, 4/0)
André Schürrle (BV 09 Borussia Dortmund, 55/20)
Julian Weigl (BV 09 Borussia Dortmund, 4/0)
Timo Werner (RB Leipzig, 0/0)

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    A fond farewell, and a warm welcome
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