Once again, the Mannschaft has been badly hit with illness and injury when closing in on an important tournament qualifier. With Michael Ballack out for the best part of two months and looking increasingly unlikely to wear the Schwarz und Weiß again, three members of Jogi Löw’s squad of twenty-two have had to drop out of the crucial home ties against Turkey tomorrow and Kazakhstan next week.
First, Marcell Jansen had to pull out having contracted a virus – seemingly leaving the path open for Borussia Dortmund’s Kevin Großkreutz to make his first start in a competitive fixture. That is until Großkreutz himself had to withdraw because of flu.
Then came the killer blow – the withdrawal of the reinvented midfield talisman Bastian Schweinsteiger with an ankle ligament injury. Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira have since the World Cup formed a successful midfield spine, and Schweini’s boots will be very hard to fill – perhaps it is time for Toni Kroos to step up.
So far Kroos has been used as something of a bit-part player during the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign, coming on for the last twenty minutes against Belgium and being surplus to requirements against Azerbaijan. He has for the most part been slotted on the left of midfield, but the two games against Turkey and Kazakhstan could well see him being named as a direct replacement for Schweinsteiger at the heart of operations. It is the position where he performed so well last season for Bayer Leverkusen, and it could represent a wonderful opportunity for the young Bayern München playmaker to showcase his talent at international level.
The absence of both Jansen and Großkreutz leaves the door open for Jérôme Boateng, back in the squad after injury – though I would favour the more reliable Heiko Westermann. While Lukas Podolski’s place in the starting lineup may have been under threat when the squad was announced, this would have receded with Schweini’s injury with Toni Kroos – who would otherwise have been vying for Poldi’s place on the left – more likely to be given the centre role. Poldi’s only other rival would be Marko Marin, who for me is still at his best as a high-impact substitute.
The only other real issue is up front, but I’d expect Miro Klose to up his game – as he always does when he is playing in the national colours. Truth be told, Klose is probably the only tangible option with Mario Gómez unable to hit a rather large Bierkeller door from five yards and Cacau looking decidedly off the boil – not aided with his playing in a weak Stuttgart side. Germany may be blessed with an abundance of talent in midfield, but up front the cupboard is scarily bare.
There has always been the tradition of the great German striker – Gerd Müller, Kalle Rummenigge, Rudi Völler, Jürgen Klinsmann, Olli Bierhoff, Miro Klose – but I am really left wondering whom Miro will hand the baton to when he eventually calls it a day. Gómez has been just shocking for almost two years now, Stefan Kießling has never been better than ordinary in the Schwarz und Weiß, while Cacau – now in his late twenties – was always seen as something of a filler. There is of course Thomas Müller, but for me he is a winger who can score goals – much like Lukas Podolski but with additional tactical nouse.
The terrifying reality is that there is no new Bomber der Nation waiting in the wings; of the top twenty goalscorers in this season’s Bundesliga campaign, only two are German. One of them is the veteran Torsten Frings – who has never been a goalscorer of any sort – and the other is the talented André Schürrle, whom Löw doesn’t wish to throw into the deep end quite yet. Even then, Schürrle is more of a winger than an out-and-out six-yard poacher in the Gerd Müller or Rudi Völler mould.
There are many who would look Eastwards in the direction of Kevin Kurányi – currently plying his trade for Dynamo Moscow with six goals in eight games – but the chances of him ever being picked while Jogi is still in charge are remote at best. Moreover, even having a cannon with no fuse like Gómez is better than having a loose one.
That said, I still believe this line-up is good enough to deal with the threat posed by both the Turks and Kazakhstan; I’d expect the Nationaltrainer to stick with the same basic 4-1-1-3-1 formation that was employed successfully aganst both Belgium and Azerbaijan – this would be my selection:
Neuer – Lahm, Mertesacker, Badstuber, Westermann (Boateng) – Khedira – Kroos – Müller, Özil, Podolski (Marin) – Klose