While some European nations will be battling it out to qualify for the Euro 2012 final stages, including mighty Portugal & CR7, other countries who have already qualified will take the opportunity to test players and try combinations in their upcoming 2 friendly games this Friday and next Tuesday. Which is the case of our Mannschaft in Kiev tomorrow afternoon at 14:45 EST (20:45 CET).
The first purpose of the trip is a step in a well prepared plan by our managers: A visit to the other host nation, Ukraine, to get acquainted with with what to expect next June, after being guests of Poland in Gdansk last September. Yet the most important purpose is the following: Which players will make the trip to Euro 2012, to be determined by the games v Schevchenko & co, then v. the Auld Enemy from the Netherlands. In other words, Löw is the president of an organization called Germany Euro 2012 which has 23 headcounts, and he has still a few vacant positions to fill in. That’s why this friendly may not be so friendly after all, not for the Ukrainians, but for some of our players, as they have to undergo Round 1 of an interview. Yes, Germany will play to win, but with different objectives in mind.
As Löw likes to say it, he likes surprises, and surely we will not be short of 1 or 2; he has to pick the players who can act as proper back-up or substitutes to the established ones, to firm some positions still in doubt, and to develop alternative viable options, in case he has to palliate for injuries (e.g. Ballack 2010), suspensions or sudden loss of forms through the remainder of the season or the tournament itself. That’s why this is the time to experiment some different combinations and line-ups where we can see some of our lads occupy an unusual position on the field
Löw already has an idea of his ideal line-up that he had decided 10 days ago to give a break to Lahm and Schweinsteiger from the internationals, while some others will play only 1 of the 2 games, not to say only 1 half-time out of the available 4. Neuer, Reus & Klose are also absent tomorrow.
As a first step. he will give the chance to Hannover’s Ron-Robert Zieler to show his talent in goal & become the 50th debutant under his reign! An opportunity for the former U21 keeper to gain confidence outside the Bundesliga & the Europa League, & be the definitive #3 behind Wiese
The second crucial question is to find the adequate cover for Philipp Lahm in the left-back position: Schmelzer or Aogo? The 2 games should bring an answer. The upside of this situation is that Lahm solved a chronic problem by switching from right to left at the club level.
Where Löw faces the biggest headache is a complex equation consisting to find 2 of 5 unknowns, better known as central defence: 5 candidates to pick from Badstuber, Boateng, Hoewedes, Hummels and Mertesacker! Knowing that 2 of them can also play as right back: Boateng & Hoewedes, with Traesch as another contender for this spot. What we can notice for sure is that a new generation has already stepped in, with veterans like Westermann & Friedrich very unlikely to be called ever again
In midfield, options need to be open & flexible to adopt either a 4-5-1 (which he uses most) or a 4-1-4-1 system. When Schweinsteiger plays, does he align Kroos too? Or have Khedira who is developing solid experience at Real Madrid, like his club mate Oezil who looks very comfortable? And where does Goetze fit in? A young promising talent to be used only as a sub? Or will his time come in a future competition? With Podolski in the picture, our midfield can be explosive. Poldi will captain our side tomorrow, but we know he can sometime fade away during a game; meaning Schuerrle will be of the tour in the summer, having demonstrated a strong presence when brought in. This leaves Löw with the decision to pick between Lars Bender and Simon Rolfes for coverage in the defensive midfield. We didn’t talk of Thomas Mueller, as he is surely a definitive starter, whether as a right midfielder or converting his “9 1/2” position into a full striker when needed
Löw would have very much liked to pair Gomez and Klose together v their Bayern friend Tymoshchuk were it not for a light injury to the Lazio player; it will be either v the Dutch or sometime next year. Super Mario may have a slight edge at the moment, while we know Miro can pull it anytime anywhere as shown against the tough Calcio walls. Cacau will have no problem in adopting his usual role of the quite substitute, while all we can hope is that someone finds a cure to the jinx accompanying Marco Reus & get rid of injuries whenever called to the Mannschaft. The Moenchengladbach marvel is already the target of many European top clubs and can easily create a surprise or two when brought in late in games next summer
Löw is perhaps facing one of his best situations ever, having a solid group of players to pick from, and even the luxury to leave aside a few, who would have made it a few years ago. Round 1 will bring him a lot of answers, but Round 2 v the Oranje in Hamburg next Tuesday should help him with decisions
Ukraine will go all out for it to show they are worthy hosts not to be discounted. With various tests in the back of the mind of Löw’s staff, the score may be tight, and a draw will not be a surprise. Enjoy!
Expected line-up: Zieler – Traesch, Hummels, Badstuber, Schmelzer – Khedira – Mueller, Goetze, Oezil, Podolski (Capt) – Gomez; Subs: Wiese – Aogo, Hoewedes, Boateng, Mertesacker, L Bender, Rolfes, Kroos, Schuerrle, Cacau