After a busy end to the domestic season, 2010/2011 finally comes to a close for the Nationalmannschaft with a home friendly and two away fixtures – with the aim being to secure all six points and place one foot firmly in next year’s Euro 2012 finals.
Sunday’s fixture against Uruguay – a repeat of the third-place play-off at last year’s World Cup finals – should provide an opportunity for some of the players on the fringes of the team; that said, after the dismal performance against Australia back in March Jogi Löw cannot afford to take too many chances and risk damaging team morale before what the two more crucial fixtures. The Nationaltrainer is between a rock and hard place: play an inexperienced team, risk a bad result against the Uruguayans and damage team morale, or play a fit first-choice squad and risk key players in what is essentially a pointless game.
It’s a hard one to call, and I really have to wonder what the planners were doing arranging a friendly days before not just one but two Euro 2012 qualifiers – and on a Sunday too. The game is being hosted at TSG 1899 Hoffenheim’s new stadium in Sinsheim, which will become the thirty-third ground to host a national fixture in the postwar era.
Friday then sees an encounter with neighbours Austria in Vienna, a fixture that has plenty of history – both good and bad. The Mannschaft have had the better of the Austrians since a disastrous friendly back in the mid-1980s and should emerge with all three points, but it is a well-known fact that the Ösis always up their game when playing Germany. It’s like one of the smaller home nations taking on England.
Not long after the final whistle blows – with me in what hopefully should be a good mood – we ourselves set off for Germany, where I will be in time for the third part of this three-match week. On Tuesday Löw’s side will be in Baku to take on Azerbaijan, where they will hopefully take their tally to twenty-one points from seven games. I hope to be in a bar in Köln that evening, having a good time with other Germany fans with plenty of chilled Kölsch flowing. I will of course try and update things here from there via iPhone, Wifi connections permitting!
OK, now to the squad. The first name immediately noticeable by his absence is Bastian Schweinsteiger, who has been sidelined with a broken toe; Löw has not named a replacement, so the squad consists of twenty-two players – with nobody being allocated the number seven shirt. Schweini is of course one of the mainstays of the German midfield, but there is so much available talent there that it should not be a problem finding a suitable replacement – it looks like the perfect opportunity for Dortmund’s Mario Götze to finally show what he is really made of at international level.
In addition to Schweinsteiger, three more players were unable to make the cut due to injury: Jérôme Boateng had already been ruled out of the remainder of the season with a knee injury, Sven Bender also had to pull out for the same reason, while defensive stalwart Per Mertesacker has been unable to shake a heel problem that has plagued him for the latter part of the domestic season. Fit-again ‘keeper René Adler and his Leverkusen skipper Simon Rolfes – whose last international was a 2009 World Cup qualifier against Russia – are back in along with two new boys, Borussia Mönchengladbach midfielder Marco Reus and a player who has particularly impressed me this season, Schalke 04’s bustling defender Benedikt Höwedes.
René Adler (Bayer 04 Leverkusen)
Manuel Neuer (FC Schalke 04)
Tim Wiese (SV Werder Bremen)
Dennis Aogo (Hamburger SV)
Holger Badstuber (FC Bayern München)
Arne Friedrich (VfL Wolfsburg)
Benedikt Höwedes (FC Schalke 04)
Mats Hummels (BV 09 Borussia Dortmund)
Philipp Lahm (FC Bayern München)
Marcel Schmelzer (BV 09 Borussia Dortmund)
Christian Träsch (VfB Stuttgart)
Mario Götze (BV 09 Borussia Dortmund)
Sami Khedira (Real Madrid CF)
Toni Kroos (FC Bayern München)
Thomas Müller (FC Bayern München)
Mesut Özil (Real Madrid CF)
Lukas Podolski (1. FC Köln)
Marco Reus (Borussia Mönchengladbach)
Simon Rolfes (Bayer 04 Leverkusen)
André Schürrle (1. FSV Mainz 05)
Mario Gómez (FC Bayern München)
Miroslav Klose (FC Bayern München)