The qualifying round for the 2012 European Championship is almost at an end, as Joachim Löw’s side finish off their campaign with fixtures in Turkey and at home to Belgium. While the Mannschaft have safely qualified for next year’s finals well ahead of time, there should be no let-up as they aim to complete a complete clean sweep of their ten qualifying matches; while there may be nothing at stake for the German team vis-a-vis their group rivals, the competition among the players is intense as they battle for a place in squad – a very happy situation for Jogi and his coaching team.
The squad sees a few changes from the original twenty-three who were selected for the last double-header against Austria and Poland; in what is a rump squad of twenty-four, Mario Gómez (named in last month’s squad but unable to take part) is selected alongside Cacau (not in last month’s original squad but drafted in to replace Gómez) and Miroslav Klose, while both Dennis Aogo and Sami Khedira are recalled at the expense of Marcel Schmelzer and Sven Bender – there are no changes elsewhere.
Manuel Neuer (Bayern München, 22 Apps/0 Goals)
Tim Wiese (Werder Bremen, 5/0)
Ron-Robert Zieler (Hannover 96, 0/0)
Dennis Aogo (Hamburger SV, 7/0)
Holger Badstuber (FC Bayern München, 15/1)
Jérôme Boateng (FC Bayern München, 16/0)
Benedikt Höwedes (FC Schalke 04, 3/0)
Mats Hummels (BV 09 Borussia Dortmund, 9/0)
Philipp Lahm (FC Bayern München, 83/4)
Per Mertesacker (SV Werder Bremen, 76/1)
Christian Träsch (VfL Wolfsburg, 9/0)
Mario Götze (BV 09 Borussia Dortmund, 9/2)
Sami Khedira (Real Madrid CF, 20/1)
Toni Kroos (FC Bayern München, 21/1)
Thomas Müller (FC Bayern München, 21/7)
Mesut Özil (Real Madrid CF, 27/6)
Lukas Podolski (1. FC Köln, 92/43)
Marco Reus (Borussia Mönchengladbach, 0/0)
Simon Rolfes (Bayer 04 Leverkusen, 24/1)
André Schürrle (Bayer 04 Leverkusen, 8/4)
Bastian Schweinsteiger (FC Bayern München, 89/22)
Mario Gómez (FC Bayern München, 47/19)
Miroslav Klose (SS Lazio, 112/62)
Cacau (VfB Stuttgart, 19/5)
There are no great surprises in the squad, and given that both matches are Euro qualifiers I would not expect Jogi to experiment with the lineups too much. There will be the usual selection discussions: will Mario Götze start alongside Mesut Özil? Will André Schürrle start instead of Lukas Podolski on the left? Will Mario get the nod to start up front ahead of Miro? There are a number of excellent players vying for almost every position on the field – in fact, the only absolute certainties for both games for me – barring illness or injury – would be Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Thomas Müller, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Özil.
While Germany will be attempting to achieve the full set of wins, there is plenty still at stake for the two teams they will be facing over the next week. With the Turks currently sitting in second place in the group – two points ahead of the Belgians – they will almost certainly come out at full pelt against the Germans in what should be an intense encounter in Istanbul, while Belgium should expect to take the full three points at home to Kazakhstan. There should be a similar level of intensity at Düsseldorf’s Esprit-Arena next Tuesday when Germany entertain the Belgians while Turkey entertain Azerbaijan.
Should everything follow current form – and, for Jogi Löw, the master plan – Germany should win both games, meaning that the battle for second place will come down to Turkey’s and Belgium’s games against the groups two bottom sides: the Turks are right now clear favourites to join the Mannschaft next year in Poland and the Ukraine.
Germany’s overall record against both Turkey and Belgium is impressive, though in recent years the Turks have offered more of a challenge. Since their first meeting in 1951, the Nationalmannschaft have played Turkey a total of nineteen times – winning thirteen, drawing three and losing three – while the record against Belgium is pretty similar at twenty-five matches played with nineteen wins, one draw and four defeats. Germany have won their last two matches against Turkey (3-2 in 2008, 3-0 in 2010) while they have been unbeaten against the Belgians since 1954.
I’ll be back with another update and my starting XI after this week’s Bundesliga matches.