How Germany Will Line Up Against Sweden

Stefan BienkowskiFeatured ColumnistOctober 14, 2013

Image courtesy of
Image courtesy of

Although Germany completed their task of qualification with relative ease against the Republic of Ireland with a 3-0 win in Cologne on Friday night, the more troubling task of regaining their pride is still at hand against tricky opponents, Sweden. 

"We have a score to settle with the Swedes, but all in the best professional manner." was the battle cry from German coach Joachim Low when asked about the fixture, following Friday's game, via "We had to take the flak for conceding four in a row, and there's no need to remind the team."

As such, Tuesday's game offers a rare occasion in the modern environment of international football which involves so much more than a matter of picking up points.

Germany feel they have a point to prove not only to the critics, but to themselves as well.

This is a side who want to win the World Cup, and part of that preparation is beating Sweden by some distance. 

Therefore, we're unlikely to see anything too dissimilar to the set up we had in the previous game against Ireland. In terms of the defence, Low will be more than happy to continue playing Lahm in his more conservative full back role, where he was able to launch countless attacks on the Irish defence, while keeping Jansen on the opposite wing. 

Similarly, Low will be keen to stick with his recent centre-back pairing of Jerome Boateng and Per Mertesacker ahead of the Sweden clash. The host's key man will be striker Johan Elmander, in the absence of the notorious Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and the key to shutting the side down is by keeping their lone striker quiet. As such, it is unlikely that Low will tempt fate by opting to bring in some new, shaky legs at the back. The coach will be hopeful that Boateng and Mertesacker will be able to handle the towering PSG striker. 

The German midfield is, however, likely to change ahead of this game. Ireland were unfortunate enough to get the full brunt of Germany's embarrassment of riches when it came to central midfielders, with Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira back in the deep lying partnership and Toni Kroos in front of them. Yet with Khedira's yellow card limit banning him from Tuesday night's game Low will be forced to reshuffle his midfield three against the Swedes. 

The trio worked well when asked to control possession and dictate play, with the Bayern duo knowing each other's game inside out and Khedira showing glimpses of that dangerous partnership he had with Schweinsteiger two years ago in Poland/Ukraine.

Yet with the Madrid central midfielder now out of the squad, Low is likely to either pull Mezut Ozil back and play Kroos alongside Schweinsteiger or indeed bring someone else in to the side.

Schweinsteiger and Khedira are no strangers to a rough tackle or aerial challenge whilst Kroos' pace and stamina set him apart from most of his opponents. If anyone is likely to replace the Madrid-based hatchet man it's likely to be Schweinsteiger's Bavarian team mate.

I'd also be tempted to suggest Mario Gotze in the number 10 role ahead of Kroos and Schweinsteiger, if Low does indeed decide to continue playing Ozil in the forward line. Low has hinted at experimenting in the coming games and if there's one player he's desperate to fit in to this squad, it's the new Bayern boy wonder.

Against the Republic of Ireland, Low opted for an unconventional attacking three of Andre Schurrle, Mezut Ozil, and Thomas Muller. With the Arsenal playmaker sitting at the top of this attacking system, it showed a clear intent from the coach to continue with his vision of a striker-less Germany ahead of the tournament in Brazil next year.

Now anyone who watched Germany for any more than 10 minutes on Friday night would have quickly noticed that this system quickly becomes a very direct tactic to goal.

Although Ozil does tend to drop deep and play in the hole alongside Kroos, Thomas Muller naturally drifts in to the box to become the irregular focal point for most attacks while Andre Schurrle keeps some width before running directly at goal once in position. 

This tactic has two clear functions. The first is, of course, to offer more in build up play and propose more options against sides such as Ireland who would tend to have five or six players in the box on any given Germany attack. Yet it also works just as well when Germany resort to a counter attack against slightly better sides such as, perhaps, Sweden.

As such, it would seem odd to predict Low will start with any other tactic in mind. This striker-less formation may be far from perfection yet, but it is here to stay.