Update from Friday, May 23
Lars Bender has been ruled out of the World Cup by a thigh injury, as reported by Reuters via the Guardian on Friday:
Two days after Germany started their preparations with a training camp in northern Italy, the Bayer Leverkusen player had to pull out of the 27-man provisional squad, Germany said in a brief statement.
The absence of Bayer Leverkusen star Bender leaves Joachim Low with a 26-man squad, after he recently cut the following three players:
Few teams had an easier time qualifying for the 2014 World Cup than Germany. Now it is time for the top contenders to win another title after naming their provisional squad on Thursday, reported by Tom Adams of Eurosport.
The Germans won nine of their 10 matches in UEFA qualifying with only a draw against Sweden preventing a perfect run. The question is whether the squad can keep this momentum in Brazil, where they will compete in one of the toughest groups in the tournament.
In order to make a deep run this summer, Germany will have to outlast Portugal, the United States and Ghana in Group G. Considering they have finished third or better in the last three World Cup tournaments, Germany should at least reach the knockout stage.
Still, expectations are high and Joachim Low needs to put together a squad capable of winning it all. Here is a look at the team he chose along with projections for the starting lineup.
|GK||Manuel Neuer||Bayern Munich|
|DEF||Jerome Boateng||Bayern Munich|
|DEF||Philipp Lahm||Bayern Munich|
|MID||Lars Bender||Bayer Leverkusen|
|MID||Mario Gotze||Bayern Munich|
|MID||Christoph Kramer||Borussia Monchengladbach|
|MID||Sami Khedira||Real Madrid|
|MID||Toni Kroos||Bayern Munich|
|MID||Bastian Schweinsteiger||Bayern Munich|
|ATT||Thomas Muller||Bayern Munich|
Who's In, Who's Out?
The key omission from Low's squad is that of Mario Gomez who has paid the price for an injury-plagued season at Fiorentina.
The 28-year-old has made only nine appearances this season in Serie A, scoring three times and providing one assist, per WhoScored.com.
However, Low feels that Khedira has more of a chance of being fully fit in time for the tournament than Gomez, as reported by Reuters via The Guardian: "Sami's prospects are very good. He has the will and discipline and is a key player in the squad. We are confident we can help him return to top form in time for the tournament."
It is certainly a youthful squad that Low has put together. The inclusion of Schalke's Leon Goretzka and Max Meyer points to his continued commitment to giving youth a chance on the biggest stage.
The 18-year-old Meyer is a worthy choice having scored six goals in his 29 Bundesliga appearances and setting a new record in the process, per Opta:
Other youngsters named by the German coach include former Everton defender Shkodran Mustafi, 21-year-old Dortmund full-back Erik Durm and 20-year-old Matthias Ginter.
As The Guardian report notes, Low has done this before, when he named Germany's youngest World Cup squad in 76 years for the 2010 tournament in South Africa in which they finished third.
Klose is certainly no youngster but a more experienced player you could not hope to have in your side to guide the young players.
As Squawka notes, the 25-year-old veteran striker will be looking to break an auspicious record in Brazil:
Miroslav Klose is currently on 14 World Cup goals, just one behind the all-time leading scorer Ronaldo (15). pic.twitter.com/hERk9rz7sR— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 8, 2014
Low noted the Lazio forward's uncanny ability to perform at the biggest moments, again per The Guardian:"Miro always hits top form at tournaments. He was injured recently but we are convinced he can help the team. It will almost certainly be his last."
A potent mix then of vast experience and energising youth, Low looks to have put together quite an outfit to take on the best in Brazil this summer.
Although there are some uncertainties with the starting lineup, there will be plenty of familiar names on the pitch when Germany face Portugal on June 16.
The easiest selection will be goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who has truly turned himself into arguably the best in the world at his position. He was at least considered as much when he was named to their World XI roster, along with club and international teammate Philipp Lahm.
As long as the Bayern Munich man is healthy, Germany should feel confident defensively in every match.
Ahead of him provides a few question marks, but Mats Hummels and Per Mertesacker have the talent and experience necessary to start at centre-back. While Benedikt Hoewedes and Jerome Boateng both have performed well at international level, the duo of Hummels and Mertesacker will be steady and authoritative in the middle.
The versatile Lahm will likely find his way at right-back where he will make a big impact both physically and emotionally as the squad's captain. He will play opposite Marcel Schmelzer, who has had a solid season with Borussia Dortmund.
Injuries have thrown questions into the holding midfielder spot, but at least Bastian Schweinsteiger will be healthy after returning from an ankle issue from earlier in the season. The midfielder discussed his goals heading into the summer to Kicker, via Peter McVitie of Goal.com:
The Champions League and the World Cup are the two biggest titles in the world. Of course I would also like to win the second. I always wanted to be in this position - responsible for success and failure.
The World Cup is a big highlight of my career.
Sami Khedira surprisingly worked his way back from a devastating knee injury, but he could still lack the fitness necessary to be a full-time starter.
This will likely leave Toni Kroos to take over the second defensive midfield spot.
In attack, Germany have an embarrassment of riches to the point where someone will likely be left out. The trio of Marco Reus, Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller has won a lot of matches for the team in the past, and it is hard to imagine any changes up front.
Each player brings a different style along with plenty of high-level experience, though someone like Julian Draxler can crack his way into the starting lineup. At the very least, he will feature a lot as a substitute.
Mario Gotze should be the front man as a false 9, although Miroslav Klose remains a canny threat. Gotze might not be able to create for himself the way Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo can, but he can produce magic when given the opportunity.
John C. Brandi of Goal.com even argues that the 21-year-old player should get the starting central creative role over Ozil:
As Ozil was hitting the buffers in London, Gotze was getting into gear in Munich. After beginning the season injured, it took him a while to reach his peak. But when he finally obtained full fitness, he showed that he was worthy of a place in Pep Guardiola's side, despite being his second-choice signing after Neymar. His versatility also proved to be a useful tool. Gotze has played in his preferred central position, on the right, on the left, and even as a false No.9.
However, Low should find a way to get both elite players on the pitch at the same time, creating one of the best attacks in the tournament.
Germany have the talent to beat anyone in the world if they play to their ability. With experience and world-class talent in every position, anything less than a title in Brazil would be considered a disappointment.