Through three games in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, Germany has looked every bit as good as the team that dominated their group play in Euro 2012 before a disappointing semi-final loss to Italy. Tuesday's home match against Sweden will provide them with their toughest opponent to date. As they look to continue their impressive start to the qualifier, leading defender Philipp Lahm will be relied upon to have a significant impact.
With Sweden's ability to produce goals up front, due in large part to the foot of star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Germany's focus will be on the defensive end in their efforts to limit his opportunities. Coming off of a one-game suspension, Germany's Philipp Lahm will have the honor of marking him throughout the match.
Lahm is certainly aware that he will have his hands full with Ibrahimovic, who scored the game winning goal in Friday's 2-1 victory over Faroe Islands.
"Sweden are dangerous opponents, maybe the strongest team (in this group)," he said.
"They are well organised in defence, and in Ibrahimovic they have a complete striker who can be very dangerous."
The Swedish captain has no doubt earned his reputation as a dangerous scorer and one of the world's top strikers. In three games at the 2012 European Championships, Ibrahimovic scored twice, and through nine games so far in the 2012 season with his home club, Paris Saint-Germain, he has scored nine times and added one assist.
Germany's hope is that Philipp Lahm, their own captain, can play his best when he is most needed. Not to be outdone, he too has earned himself a reputation as one of the world's best at his position, and will look to confirm that in this match.
During the Euro 2012 tournament, Sports Illustrated's Ben Lyttleton wrote as much, praising the play of Lahm as he took over the captain's role previously held by Michael Ballack.
As well as being Germany's best right-back, Lahm is also its best left-back, though he did admit to Süddeutsche Zeitung "I feel a bit more secure on the right, especially when it comes to defending. Right and left ... Put simply, it's just not the same position."
Even at left-back, though, Lahm is an outstanding defender and he is in the midst of an incredible run.
Throughout his career thus far, he has become the definition of an all-around player on the German defense. Still just 28 years old, Lahm has a lot of football ahead of him both with his home club Bayern Munich, and on the international stage with Germany.
With talent up front like that of Miroslav Klose, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller to name a few, goals for this German club will no doubt continue to come in bunches. Should Lahm have success in defending Ibrahimovic as the Germans plan, they should have no problem in earning their fourth straight victory to start the World Cup Qualifier.
It is this matchup, above any other in the battle of these two undefeated squads, that could best help to dictate how the rest of the Group 'C' play will carry out. A matchup putting the two clubs' captains against one another—Germany and Sweden would not have it any other way.
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