Friday’s game against Gibraltar sharpened the media focus on Germany’s current poor form, but perhaps even more worryingly it saw two more players join the already significant injury list. Both goalkeeping titan Manuel Neuer and defensive rock Jérôme Boateng were ruled out of the friendly fixture against Spain – more than likely as a precautionary measure given the gravity of FC Bayern München’s growing list of casualties – and Nationaltrainer Joachim Löw was left with an ever-thinning for the prestigious but ultimately meaningless meeting in Vigo against the previous World Cup winners.
For FC Bayern, things would get even worse with the injury to World Cup winning captain Philipp Lahm, who was ruled out of action with an ankle fracture sustained in training.
With the available defensive contingent looking scarily thin, the coach looked for an additional name – and the crucial text message was sent to VfL Wolfsburg’s Robin Knoche, one of his teams unsung heroes during their run of excellent form and climb up the Bundesliga table.
1. FC Köln’s Jonas Hector became the 74th player to make his debut in the Nationaltrikot since Löw’s appointment in the late summer of 2006, and should he take to the field in Vigo the Braunschweig-born Knoche will become the 75th.
Current Under-21 international Knoche looks all set to become Jogi Löw’s seventy-fifth Neuling
We are sure to see a different-looking Germany team tonight, and many of those on the fringe will be looking to make the most of the opportunity to keep themselves on the coaching’s most favoured list as the season heads towards the winter break. Borussia Dortmund’s Roman Weidenfeller should replace Neuer between the sticks, while Knoche could make a start. Should the coach decide to revert back to a standard Viererkette, the twenty-two year old Wolfsburg centre-back could find himself competing with Shkodran Mustafi or Benedikt Höwedes for a place with VfB Stuttgart’s Antonio Rüdiger on the right and one of Hector or Erik Durm on the left.
The midfield looks more settled with Sami Khedira and Toni Kroos providing the backbone behind Thomas Müller, Mario Götze and Karim Bellarabi, while up front the disappointing Max Kruse looks set to make way for TSG 1899 Hoffenheim’s Kevin Volland.
While as a friendly there is little benefit to either side, as the first meeting since the World Cup semi-final in 2010 there should be a bit of an edge to it. Then there is the fact that neither side have been in stellar form since the World Cup finals: while Germany have dropped points in their first four Euro 2016 qualifier, Vicente del Bosque’s side would lose their opening game against an unheralded Slovakian outfit. As 2014 comes to an end, Spain will be wanting to end a disappointing year on a good note, while the Nationalmannschaft will be looking to put apply that final bit of polish and end their championship winning 2014 on a high.