By this time tomorrow, the Mannschaft would have played their first match of the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign against Belgium – with hopefully three points in the bag. Germany have not lost to the Red Devils in my lifetime, and have never lost a competitive fixture against them.
In the period covered in this website (the Franz Beckenbauer era onwards) Germany have played Belgium half a dozen times, beating them on every occasion:
01.05.1991 (Hannover, Euro 1992 Qualifying) 1-0
20.11.1991 (Brussels, Euro 1992 Qualifying) 1-0
02.07.1994 (Chicago, World Cup Finals Second Phase) 3-2
23.08.1995 (Brussels, Friendly International) 2-1
31.03.2004 (Köln, Friendly International) 3-0
20.08.2008 (Nürnberg, Friendly International) 2-0
While coach Joachim Löw rested the majority of the successful World Cup squad for last month’s friendly fixture against Denmark, a full-strength line-up returns for this opening competitive fixture of the season. Michael Ballack, recently named as first-choice skipper by the Nationaltrainer, is still not fully fit – meaning that World Cup captain Phillipp Lahm will once again wear the Binde.
A squad of twenty-one has been named for the double header against Belgium and Azerbaijan, with a number of players that were injured for the campaign in South Africa being recalled:
Rene Adler (recalled in place of Hans-Jörg Butt, retired)
Sascha Riether (added to squad, debuted against Denmark)
Heiko Westermann (recalled)
Christian Träsch (recalled)
Those not in this squad in include Dennis Aogo (injured), Jérôme Boateng (injured), Arne Friedrich (injured), Serdar Taşçı (dropped) and Piotr Trochowski (injured).
Adler had been first choice goalkeeper before being injured prior to the World Cup, but the form of Manuel Neuer should ensure that he keeps his place. Also weighing against Adler would be the fact that his Bayer Leverkusen side lost their last home fixture against Borussia Mönchengladbach 6-3 – though in fairness he was at at fault for most of Borussia’s goals. Of the other recalled players who had been unable to take part in South Africa, I would expect Heiko Westermann to make the starting line-up in both of the upcoming fixtures. My own chosen line-up would consist of a back four with Lahm and Westermann as wingbacks, a midfield spine of Schweinsteiger and Khedira, a three-man offensive midfield with Podolski on the left, Müller on the right and Özil in the center, and Klose up front:
Neuer – Lahm, Mertesacker, Friedrich, Westermann – Schweinsteiger, Khedira – Podolski, Özil, Müller – Klose
In terms of subsitutions that might be made, I would expect Toni Kroos to make an appearance and possibly Cacau – with either one of Gómez and Kießling. Let’s see if I am as good a selector as Jogi.