So, we have our squad of twenty-three players for the two-match tour of the United States, numbered from one to twenty-four with no number nineteen. Weird. Maybe Paul Hardcastle had something to do with it.
With the entire core contingent from FC Bayern München unavailable and most of Borussia Dortmund’s first-choice internationals not on the shortlist either, Nationaltrainer Joachim Löw has managed to cobble together what looks like a half-decent squad with a mix of the retained, the recalled and four new recruits.
While some of the choices are a little desperate – Dortmund midfield pair Sven Bender and Kevin Kroßkreutz will fly out for just the second match against the US along with Lazio’s Italian Cup Final attendee Miroslav Klose – it looks on paper like a decent enough mix. Well, decent enough to deal with both Ecuador and the US.
So here’s a quick walk-through.
In goal there is no real dramatic change in the absence of regular Manuel Neuer, as HSV’s René Adler takes his position as number one with fairly established backups in the form of Hannover 96’s Ron-Robert Zieler and Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Marc-André ter Stegen. In short, no massive surprises.
Were it not for the European Under-21 Championship being played at the same time we might have seen Bayer 04 Leverkusen stopper Bernd Leno, but the trio who have made the cut is pretty much the orthodox selection.
Probably the weakest component of the team is the defence, with only four names remaining from the first-choice squad selected for the last World Cup qualifier against Kazakhstan in March: Schalke 04 skipper Benedikt Höwedes, Arsenal’s Per Mertesacker and HSV pair Marcell Jansen and Heiko Westermann.
These four are joined by two names from the past in HSV’s Dennis Aogo – whose last appearance was in early 2012 – and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim skipper Andreas Beck, who was last seen in the Nationaltrikot back in November 2010. In fact, along with ‘keeper Adler we could very well see what is essentially the Hamburg back line – something to worry about given that die Rothosen have been pretty leaky this season.
Joining this slightly suspect defensive cadre is the promising Leverkusen centre-back Philipp Wollscheid, who comes into the squad after a successful first season at the BayArena. In terms of international experience, Wollscheid has one cap at Under-20 level.
The defensive midfield is a real mix of fringe, old and new faces. Both of the Bender twins have been selected – Sven will be joining the squad for the second match after the Champions’ League final – while Schalke’s Roman Neustädter should add to his one cap. There are recalls for BVB’s Kevin Großkreutz – who last international was back in February 2011 – along with Werder Bremen’s Aaron Hunt and Leverkusen’s Stefan Reinartz, both of who last donned the Nationaltrikot in 2010.
With the abundance of talent Germany has in the attacking midfield, it is here where the side looks the strongest. There is established experience in the form of 108-cap Lukas Podolski, while winger André Schürrle – soon to be in England with Chelsea – is another established figure along with up-and-coming Schalke 04 starlet Julian Draxler, who will finally get the opportunity to boss the middle of the park in the absence of the likes of Mesut Özil and Mario Götze.
There are two Neulings in the midfield mix: vesatile Mainz winger Nicolai Müller is a surprise choice, while Bayer 04’s Sidney Sam finally gets a call to the national team – ironically after what have been in comparative terms two rather average Bundesliga seasons. Perhaps the Maharishi Jogi knows something we all don’t: might this be the Summer of Sam? Erm, OK. That was pretty poor as puns go.
Up front, there can be no bigger contrast between the two players who have been selected. With Leverkusen’s Stefan Kießling ruling himself out and VfL Wolfsburg’s Patrick Helmes out injured, the Nationaltrainer has selected veteran Miroslav Klose and a new boy in SC Freiburg’s Max Kruse. Klose will hope to match Gerd Müller’s goalscoring record, while Kruse will hope to cap off what has been a fine season as part of a Freiburg side that has punched well above its weight in chasing a Champions League spot in the Bundesliga.
With regular skippers Phillip Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger unavailable, the captain’s armband should be passed to Per Mertesacker for the fist match in Boca Raton against Ecuador, while Miroslav Klose would be expected to assume these responsibilities for the second match in Washington.
With more than a dozen first-choice players unavailable, this will be a clear opportunity for the new boys to kick-start their international careers. For those slightly more familiar faces that have been recalled, there will be the chance to reignite something that might otherwise have been long lost. After this tour we may never see some of these players in the Nationaltrikot again, while some could very well join the list of one cap wonders.
René Adler (Hamburger SV, 11/0)
Ron-Robert Zieler (Hannover 96, 2/0)
Marc-André ter Stegen (Borussia Mönchengladbach, 2/0)
Dennis Aogo (Hamburger SV, 10/0)
Andreas Beck (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, 9/0)
Benedikt Höwedes (FC Schalke 04, 12/1)
Marcell Jansen (Hamburger SV, 37/3)
Per Mertesacker (Arsenal FC, 88/2)
Heiko Westermann (Hamburger SV, 24/3)
Philipp Wollscheid (Bayer 04 Leverkusen, 0/0)
Lars Bender (Bayer 04 Leverkusen (12/1)
Sven Bender (BV 09 Borussia Dortmund, 3/0)
Julian Draxler (FC Schalke 04, 3/0)
Kevin Großkreutz (BV 09 Borussia Dortmund, 3/0)
Aaron Hunt (SV Werder Bremen, 2/0)
Nicolai Müller (FSV Mainz 05, 0/0)
Roman Neustädter (FC Schalke 04, 1/0)
Lukas Podolski (Arsenal FC, 108/44)
Stefan Reinartz (Bayer 04 Leverkusen, 1/0)
Sidney Sam (Bayer 04 Leverkusen, 0/0)
André Schürrle (Bayer 04 Leverkusen, 22/7)
Miroslav Klose (SS Lazio, 126/67)
Max Kruse (SC Freiburg, 0/0)