One of the toughest tasks of any
After the farcical way in which England’s World Cup squad leaked out through various sources, most notably Twitter, it was an all-together more straightforward proposition for the three-time World Cup winners. Heiko Westermann was the last of Low’s preliminary squad to suffer injury, with a broken foot late in Germany’s friendly against Hungary robbing Low of the versatile Schalke defender’s services. After the loss of Westermann and midfielder Christian Trasch, Stefan Kiessling was thought to be on the bubble but the striker has been spared at the expense of Beck. With Low likely to pick a single forward and instead make full use of his impressive range of attacking midfield options, Kiessling may not see much playing time in South Africa as one of the six strikers in Low’s selection. There is always the possibility that injuries to Ballack and Trasch could force a tactical re-think from Low and the introduction of a second striker, but such a move will probably only come against weak sides but, given Germany face Australia, Serbia and Ghana in Group D, weak sides are not on Germany’s initial agenda.
Philipp Lahm has been installed as captain to replace Ballack, and, after Trasch was ruled out of the tournament with an ankle injury, there is a chance Lahm could be called on to replace the Chelsea man in midfield too. Trasch was to act as back up to Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira, but with the Stuttgart player joining Ballack on the injured list, Germany’s engine room is desperately stretched in the defensive sector and Lahm could be asked to fill the gap – much to his apparent chagrin. Lahm said: “For a player it is easier if he always plays in the same position and I would prefer to play right-back. Don’t even think I would play as a defensive midfielder. I have played that position only once in six years.” Dennis Aogo remains with the party but his lack of experience at international level may see Lahm, the experienced Bayern Munich full-back, drafted into a position he knows little about and does not exactly relish. But Lahm is versatile, able to play comfortably on either side of the defence and, as one of the squad’s most experienced members, as well as the new skipper, Lahm could be expected to make a personal sacrifice for the good of the team.
Provided Lahm sticks to his anti-midfield guns, Germany are expected to head into their first World Cup game against Australia on June 13 with two deep-lying midfielders – their only two out-and-out deep lying midfielders – Schweinsteiger and Khedira, with three more attacking types further forward. Lukas Podolski may take the left-wing berth, 20-year-old Thomas Muller the right, with Mesut Ozil supporting Miroslav Klose through the middle. The back four will be made up of Lahm, Serdar Tasci, Per Mertesacker and Manchester City target Jerome Boateng, but the identity of the man between the posts is another injury-induced dilemma. Rene Adler was to be Low’s No. 1 until injury struck him down, leaving Manuel Neuer, Tim Wiese and Hans-Jorg Butt fighting for the gloves. Low has confirmed Neuer as the victor in that particular scrap, leaving Wiese admittedly disappointed, but such is the life of a goalkeeper. When only one player can start in a position, there are always going to be frustrated parties and Wiese is no exception, but to the Werder Bremen stopper’s credit he has taken Low’s decision in good humour and pledged his support to Neuer.
Both Lahm and the legendary Franz Beckenbauer are talking of reaching the semi-finals, repeating the achievements of four years ago. But the 2006 tournament was on home soil and with a much easier group – instead of three dark horses, as Germany face this year, 2006 saw Germany compete with three also-rans in Ecuador, Costa Rica and Poland. Whether the 2010 vintage can match or better the achievements of the Jurgen Klinsmann-led side remains to be seen, but after injuries continually rocked Low’s preparations, he will be hoping at least for no more bad news.
Manuel Neuer (Schalke 04)
Tim Wiese (Werder Bremen)
Hans-Jorg Butt (Bayern Munich)
Dennis Aogo (Hamburg)
Holger Badstuber (Bayern Munich)
Jerome Boateng (Hamburg)
Arne Friedrich (Hertha Berlin)
Marcell Jansen (Hamburg)
Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich)
Per Mertesacker (Werder Bremen)
Serdar Tasci (Stuttgart)
Sami Khedira (Stuttgart)
Toni Kroos (Bayer Leverkusen)
Marko Marin (Werder Bremen)
Mesut Ozil (Werder Bremen)
Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich)
Piotr Trochowski (Hamburg)
Mario Gomez (Bayern Munich)
Stefan Kiessling (Bayer Leverkusen)
Miroslav Klose (Bayern Munich)
Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich)
Lukas Podolski (FC Koln)