Red Bull Arena Zentralstadion this evening hosts what will hopefully be a successful send-off for the Nationalmannschaft before the upcoming Euros: a friendly fixture against Israel. An odd choice of opponent perhaps – unless of course there is some hidden secret that suggests that the Israelis play in a similar style to the Danes, Dutch or Portuguese – but not the biggest pushovers around.
More on that in a bit.
In the last few days the Kicker ratings for the Switzerland match have been published, so let us have a quick look at them. First, here are my ratings again so you can compare them:
ter Stegen (5.5), Höwedes (3.5), Mertesacker (6), Hummels (4.5), Schmelzer (6), Khedira (4.5), Özil (4.5), Götze (4), Schürrle (4), Podolski (5.5), Klose (4.5). Subs (up until 75 minutes only): Reus (3.5), Gündoğan (3.5), Draxler (3)
And here are Kicker’s:
ter Stegen (5.5), Höwedes (4.5), Mertesacker (5.5), Hummels (4.5), Schmelzer (5.5), Khedira (5), Özil (5), Götze (5), Schürrle (3.5), Podolski (5), Klose (4.5). Subs: Reus (2.5), Gündoğan (4.5), Draxler (no rating)
So… While there is some agreement – Marc-André ter Stegen, Mats Hummels, Miroslav Klose – Kicker have decided to go easy on Per Mertesacker and Marcel Schmelzer, while giving André Schürrle the highest score out of the eleven starters. Marco Reus, who came on as a second-half substitute, gets the best score. Did Hummels really have as good a game as Benedikt Höwedes? The informed folks at Kicker seems to think so, I don’t. I guess it’s up to you to decide.
OK, lets have a look at this evening’s match.
First, the opponents – a team that has played Germany on three occasions, losing all of them with a goal difference of one against ten. Not quite as handy as the Swiss, then. The last match between the sides was played in February 2002 at Kaiserslautern’s Fritz-Walter-Stadion, and was a bit of a strange one: after gifting the Israelis a twenty-seventh minute lead through an Oliver Kahn own goal, Germany went in at half-time to a chorus of boos and whistles – and promptly returned to score an unanswered seven goals including a Klose hat-trick. If the team can produce a similar result this evening, everyone – except, perhaps, the Israelis – will be happy.
Israel’s national team has slowly improved over recent years, and have managed to string together some decent qualifying campaigns while not managing to match the one time they have qualified for a major tournament – the FIFA World Cup in Mexico in 1970. They finished third in their Euro 2012 qualifying group behind Greece and the Ukraine – losing only to the two top teams. Their recent record however has not been too impressive with only one win in their last six matches, a 2-0 win in Malta.
Jogi Löw’s side will not only be expected to win, but to put on a decent show that will provide enough credible evidence to justify their position as one of the favourites for the upcoming tournament in Poland and the Ukraine. The previous friendly could be chalked off on account of the team being little more than a B-side, but this evening the Nationaltrainer is expected to name a more serious lineup. According to Kicker, here’s the starting XI:
Neuer – Boateng, Mertesacker, Hummels, Lahm – Khedira, Kroos – Müller, Özil, Podolski – Gómez
Between the sticks: Manuel Neuer
Probably the first of the first choices, the FC Bayern München Torhüter has been impressive for both club and country – even if things do not go quite to plan for Bayern this season. He also showed that he can take a decent penalty as well.
The back four: Jérôme Boateng, Per Mertesacker, Mats Hummels, Philipp Lahm
With Marcel Schmelzer looking less than impressive against Switzerland, the coach switches to Plan B – with skipper Philipp Lahm pushed out to the left and Jérôme Boateng stationed at right-back. Despite looking short of match fitness at the weekend, Per Mertesacker is along selected to partner Mats Hummels in the centre of defence. Jogi Löw has clearly got a soft spot for the tall Arsenal man – I just hope this doesn’t come back to bite him. For what it’s worth, I would have started with Holger Badstuber – or failing that, Benedikt Höwedes.
The defensive midfield spine: Sami Khedira, Toni Kroos
Sami Khedira looked more than a little isolated and run off his feet in the 4-1-4-1 setup against the Swiss, but should be more comfortable in the expected 4-2-3-1 behind Toni Kroos. It was this combination that impressed in the friendly against the Netherlands last year, and in the absence of the still not fully-fit Bastian Schweinsteiger is probably the most reliable partnership in the defensive midfield.
The attacking midfield trioka – Thomas Müller, Mesut Özil, Lukas Podolski
Lukas Podolski was another man who seemed to be absent on Saturday, and will be looking for a marked improvement in order to retain his starting spot out on the left wing ahead of André Schürrle or the versatile Marco Reus. The return of Thomas Müller out on the right brings that touch of craft and unpredictability that was missing against the Swiss – again, with Reus as a suitable back-up – while the central role is handed to another one of the guaranteed starters, Mesut Özil. Özil was not at his best against the Swiss playing alongside Mario Götze, and with the midfield all to himself should be able to exercise his usual control and distribution out to the flanks.
The goal-getter: Mario Gómez
On form, Gómez is a goal monster. When his head isn’t quite right however, he can be quite awful. Having endured a string of bad games for FC Bayern in the closing part of the season, we can all hope that “Super” Mario the goal monster makes an appearance to present himself as a genuine alternative to Miroslav Klose – who is another player struggling to be fully fit in time. When Gómez is bad he can be truly cringeworthy, but when he is hitting his straps he can be the difference between a 1-0 defeat and a 3-1 win. Nobody can be that bad and score forty-one goals in a season, after all.
So there we have it: a line up that looks a lot closer to the one that should take to the field against Portugal when the tournament finally starts next week. Hopefully we will have a few more answers late this evening. I will be on the hunt for an online stream as there is no live coverage here in the UK – and if all goes to plan you’ll get the lovely minute-by-minute warts and all match report.
Bis bald, Fussballfreunde!