Friday, 8 June 2012

Germany set to shine in Euro 2012

Aside from defending champions Spain, Germany are the only other country to have qualified for Euro 2012 with a perfect record. Bayern Munich striker Mario Gomez hit top form in the middle of their qualification campaign, providing the finishing steel to silky midfield play.

The tactical genius behind the curtain
When Jurgen Klinsmann succeeded Rudi Voller at the helm of the national team after Euro 2004, he was credited for reinventing the side by blooding in young players to replace several older ones who were no longer pulling their weight.
In their run to third place at the 2006 World Cup, Germany thrilled both home and overseas supporters alike with their fast-paced, offensive style of play. Though Klinsmann was the face of the management team and got most of the acclaim, it was Low, then his assistant, who was responsible for coming up with the team's tactical agenda.
Working together with Klinsmann , the duo selected exciting attacking talent to carry out Low's offense-based strategies. Since taking over, Low has continued to refine the squad's playing style, ensuring their defensive responsibilities were not sacrificed during their forays up front.
Acknowledged by many to be a tactical genius, the former Stuttgart manager has led the Germans to second and third place finishes at Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup respectively. Building his team around a core group that has represented the nation since Klinsmann's reign, Low's starting eleven has displayed good understanding and is widely tipped to finish with silverware in the upcoming edition of the European Championships.
The right mix of youth and experience
As a result of years of meticulous planning and transition, the current German team comprises of a good mix of old hands and emerging talents who are eager to make their mark on the international stage.
Since making his international debut in the 2003/04 season, Philip Lahm has grown tremendously in stature, becoming one of the cornerstones of the national team even before he was handed the captain's armband. The full-back started every game in Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010, and he has continued this streak by featuring in all of Germany's Euro 2012 qualifiers.
Lahm is a quintessential example of a player not only honed in the art of German defensive discipline, but also one that is fully capable of taking part in team attacks, making him the embodiment of the type of game Low seeks from his playing staff.
Though Lahm wears the armband, striker Miroslav Klose will be the most experienced player upfront for Germany. Bursting into the international scene at the 2002 World Cup with a front flip that remains one of his most memorable goals, the Lazio player has played an integral role in every tournament for Die Mannschaft since.
The German's ability to hammer in the goals while donning his country's colours is uncanny. Even when enduring a drop in club form or making a return from a long injury layoff, Klose can be counted on to register his name amongst Germany's goal-scorers. Though the forward missed the tail end of the Serie A season with a thigh injury, it was no surprise to find him named in Low's squad.
As a result of a performance-based selection policy, players like Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller and Holger Badstuber have secured starting berths. The Bayern Munich trio will not be unfamiliar to German fans, after featuring in the previous World Cup, and also in the bulk of the team's qualifiers for the upcoming European Championship.
Muller will be fondly remembered for finishing joint top scorer of World Cup 2010. It was his debut tournament for the senior team, but that did not stop him from becoming an integral piece of the German attacking jigsaw. As the only player besides goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and Lahm to play in all of the team's Euro 2012 qualifiers, Muller chipped in three goals and seven assists.
With his good form for the country showing no signs of letting up, expect him to start alongside Lukas Podolski in supporting roles just behind principle striker Mario Gomez or Klose.
Unlike Muller, Kroos and Badstuber played smaller roles in the previous World Cup. However, establishing themselves in the Bayern first team over the past two years has since led to them becoming important fixtures in Low's squad.
While central defender Badstuber is almost guaranteed a place in the first eleven thanks to consistently impressive performances for club and country, Kroos will compete with the more experienced duo of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira for a central midfield spot.
Although Kroos and Muller have put in notable performances, the player causing ripples of excitement amongst fans in recent months is Mario Gotze. Holding the record of being the youngest senior international and the joint-youngest goal-scorer in German colours, the Borussia Dortmund attacking midfielder made four appearances in qualifying, managing to get on the score-sheet once.
Gotze's fleet-footedness and creativity sees him play with a distinctive flair, making him stand-out amongst his team-mates. The 19-year-old has been dubbed a Lionel Messi in the making, and if he is not overawed by the occasion, Gotze could very well turn out to be Germany's most lethal weapon at Euro 2012.
The gems in midfield
After an impressive World Cup 2010 campaign, Mesut Ozil secured a move to Real Madrid, and in the time that has passed, he has proven himself to be one of the leading playmakers in Europe.
He will take on a similar role in the upcoming tournament, playing as the advanced central midfielder in Low's preferred 4-2-3-1 formation. Schweinsteiger will start just behind Ozil, while Khedira will play in his usual holding midfield role.
The Germany manager can be forgiven for having confidence in his central trio, as the group are experienced at all levels of club and international football. While Ozil marauds, he will have Schweinsteiger in support, and Khedira will offer the duo peace of mind by protecting the defence. As such, the three players form a very well-balanced unit in the centre of the park.
If Low is eager for more goals, he may send on Gotze in place of Schweinsteiger. While two heavily attack-minded players may put more pressure on the anchorman, that is unlikely to be a particularly large stumbling block given Ozil and Gotze's preference to roam around the pitch. The duo will drop back and help Khedira should possession be turned over to the opposition.
The time is right for Germany to shine
Drawn in the group of death, Group B, Germany will know they have to be at their best from the start. Although the German defence has minimal tournament experience with the exception of Lahm, the team possesses sufficient quality to book its place in the last eight. Meeting any member of group A in the quarter-finals should also present little challenge to Germany's quest for success.
If they get through to the knock-out stages, a mouth-watering semi-final encounter with defending champions Spain is a likely prospect, and having been knocked out in the same phase by the same opposition in the last World Cup, Low's squad will have no difficulty realising just how big a challenge lies before them.
However, it just might be at an opportune time for Low's squad to meet the defending champions. Depleted by the loss of Carles Puyol and David Villa, the Spanish are quite possibly at their most vulnerable. Should the Germans find themselves in a good run of form leading up to the tie, they will definitely fancy their chances to go through at Spain's expense. Once they have gotten past the defending champions, it is hard to imagine any other team being able to stop the Germans in their hunt for European glory.
Final Germany squad for Euro 2012: Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Tim Wiese (SV Werder Bremen), Ron-Robert Zieler (Hannover 96), Holger Badstuber (Bayern Munich), Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich), Benedikt Howedes (FC Schalke 04), Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund), Marcel Schmelzer (Borussia Dortmund), Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich), Per Mertesacker (Arsenal), Lars Bender (Bayer 04 Leverkusen), Toni Kroos (Bayern Munich), Thomas Mueller (Bayern Munich), Mesut Ozil (Real Madrid), Sami Khedira (Real Madrid), Marco Reus (VfL Borussia Monchengladbach), Andre Schurrle (Bayer 04 Leverkusen), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich), Mario Gotze (Borussia Dortmund), Ilkay Gundogan (Borussia Dortmund), Miroslav Klose (Lazio), Mario Gomez (Bayern Munich), Lukas Podolski (FC Koln).

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