After the endless discussions about the starting lineup at Euro 2012, we kick things off again with this season’s opening friendly international against Argentina: a friendly with that touch of importance, a game against a “big” country rather than a middle or lower-ranking team where Nationaltrainer Jogi Löw can hope to get away with fielding a team of untested youngsters.
A tough one to call, more so that the Bundesliga hasn’t even started yet.
I have never really been in favour of the late summer international, as this is the last time the clubs want to see their players taken away for what is ultimately a meaningless fixture; I am even less in favour of playing against a major international power at this time, as we then have the fact that it is a meaningless fixture being played against the desire to get a decent result.
Nobody cares that much if a young experimental German side is beaten by the likes of Denmark or Sweden, but we all want to see a good show against the likes of Argentina. By naming a squad that contains no new names, it would appear that the coach appears to agree: while a number of key players are being rested, there is nothing experimental about the nineteen players who have been named for Wednesday’s encounter in Frankfurt in front of what is expected to be a capacity crowd.
So, here’s my starting XI:
L. Bender, Hummels, Badstuber, Boateng
Müller, Özil, Reus
Since my last team news update, goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is now out of the squad having sustained a slight hip injury against Dortmund in yesterday’s DFB Supercup – with his place in the nineteen-man squad being taken by Borussia Mönchengladbach Torhüter Marc-André ter Stegen. Given that Hannover 96’s Ron-Robert Zieler had been originally picked as second choice he is expected to start the game, but should things go to plan it is possible that ter Stegen – disappointing in his debut in Switzerland – may be given a run-out at half-time, and another chance to warm his gloves.
My own back four is arguably unorthodox with Jérôme Boateng being switched to the left side of the defence – the position he played in South Africa in 2010 – and Lars Bender on the right, but realistically I can see Jogi going for Boateng at right-back and Marcel Schmelzer (eek!) at left-back. In the centre, I cannot see much beyond Mats Hummels and Holger Badstuber, who are my choices to be developed as the first-choice central defensive partnership moving on towards Brazil 2014.
The defensive midfield spine, to start at least, should consist of Sami Khedira and Toni Kroos – though I really want to see İlkay Gündoğan given an extended run.
The attacking midfield is where there is skill and talent in abundance, and here I would like to see the “Müller-Reus” combination out on the flanks with Mesut Özil in the centre. Thomas Müller offers his intelligence and his own peculiar brand of unpredictability and Marco Reus provides pace and flamboyance – perfect foils for the mercurial Özil whose role it will be to exploit and create space.
With Mario Gómez injured the single spot up front should be occupied by Miroslav Klose, whom I would expect to wear the captain’s armband. Löw has named no other strikers, so should Klose run out of puff I would expect to see Reus plug the gap, with supersub André Schürrle or Schalke 04 youngster Julian Draxler slotting in on the left.
For comparison, here’s the predicted Kicker line-up:
Zieler – L. Bender, Hummels, Badstuber, Schmelzer – Kroos, Khedira – Reus, Özil, Schürrle – Klose
Kicker have gone for the a more predictable back four, which Schmelzer filling the left-back position, and a three-man attacking midfield with Reus on the right and Schürrle on the left – again, pretty predictable. I just hope Jogi does what he didn’t do at Euro 2012 and not be predictable.
After an arguably poor Olympic display where the German team fell way short of the expected medal haul – and where there was no representation in either the men’s or women’s football competitions – fans will want to see a positive start to the season, with this being carried over into the World Cup qualifiers that start in the first week of September against the Faroe Islands in Hannover.