After Euro 2012, there were serious doubts over Lukas Podolski's long-term future with the Germany national team. The Koln native had scored just twice for Germany in 18 months, including only one during the tournament in Poland and Ukraine.
Since then, Podolski's form for Germany has continued to be rather unimpressive; he's scored four goals for the Mannschaft since late 2010. And as a player who missed the majority of four months of this season at Arsenal and has only recently become relied upon by Arsene Wenger, Podolski isn't exactly the player many are expecting to light up the World Cup in Brazil.
But he just might.
It should be noted that Germany have an abundance of world-class attacking options, many of whom will be ahead of Podolski in the pecking order. Marco Reus is no secret, certainly not after his heroic performance against Real Madrid and stunning run of form over the last month or so. Mesut Ozil as well is a player who needs no introduction; he's been the cornerstone of the German attack ever since the fall of 2009. Thomas Muller was in 2010 the youngest player to score five goals at a World Cup since Pele. And as a favorite of Low's, who was Germany's youngest debutant since Uwe Seeler, opponents can more or less expect Mario Gotze as a threat.
With so many other international superstars available to Joachim Low, it's unlikely that Podolski will start. But as the current club season approaches its end, he's looking increasingly to be an impact substitute, as much of a surprise package as a 112-times-capped Germany international can be.
Low has historically been loyal to certain longstanding players, from Miroslav Klose to Per Mertesacker to Podolski himself. Club form never was an issue. And in spite of his recent drought of goals on the international stage, Podolski has continued to make appearances for country, with Low labeling him "indispensable" in an interview with Kicker (h/t Goal.com) last August.
Podolski was made a centurion at Euro 2012, yet still managed 12 more caps since despite his lengthy absence with injury last fall. Given Julian Draxler's stagnation at Schalke and Andre Schurrle's inability to make much of an impression at Chelsea, it appears Podolski will be Low's first choice in attack coming off the bench.
In recent years, it has become increasingly easy to forget the impact that Podolski can have. He's often lacked precision and confidence, his scoring instincts have been dulled.
But Podolski in fact offers some unique qualities to the German attack, ones that may prove very useful at the World Cup. No current Germany international can match his shooting power and only Reus is a better finisher with his stronger foot.
Critically, Podolski has had the chance to work on his partnership with Mesut Ozil especially in the latter stages of this season, and the Arsenal teammates now have a chemistry unlike any other pairing in Low's attack. Ozil has brought the best out of Podolski, whose pace has been an asset to Arsenal as he's been a menace to opposing defenses, latching onto through passes from the playmaker on the left wing. The winger has four goals in as many Premier League games, and come close on several more occasions.
Podolski has been to the World Cup before; twice, in fact, and he understands the magnitude of the occasion. Just weeks before his 29th birthday, he knows this is his last World Cup before the beginning of his natural physical decline. This summer's tournament in Brazil will be his first international tournament since joining Arsenal, a move Low (via Sky Sports) hailed in the fall of 2012 as very positive to his development.
Few players amass as many caps as Podolski without having a serious effect on a major international tournament, and the Arsenal man is due to deliver in Brazil. He's twice finished third with Germany and like Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger, will be spurred on by his near misses. His recent form certainly suggests so. Although he may not be a starter at any point in the tournament, Podolski could well be Low's secret weapon off the bench in Brazil.