Why World Cup Form of Mesut Ozil Will be Key As Germany Confirm 2014 Squad

Stefan Bienkowski@@SbienkowskiFeatured ColumnistJune 2, 2014

Germany's Mesut Ozil controls the ball during the international friendly soccer match between Germany and Chile in Stuttgart, Germany, Wednesday, March 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

According to the German national team's website, their final 23-man World Cup squad was unveiled on Monday with just 10 days and one final friendly test match against Armenia left until the tournament begins in Brazil.

Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal await Die Mannschaft in the opening game of Group G, and as such, it was left to Loew to trim his squad down to the maximum allowed in order to face such a task.

The last three players cut from the squad were Borussia Dortmund left-back Marcel Schmelzer, Hoffenheim's Kevin Volland and the Sampdoria defender Shkodran Mustafi.

This leaves little surprise to the majority of fans, who already knew of Schmelzer's poor fitness and the relative inexperience of the latter two youngsters.

However, what this does now mean is that Loew has committed himself to a squad that bolsters only one standalone striker, leaving just Thomas Mueller and possibly Mario Goetze as the only alternatives to the 35-year-old Miroslav Klose up front.

Michael Probst/Associated Press

This alone will dig up all sorts of apprehension for German fans going into the World Cup, following an incredibly dismissive 2-2 draw against Cameroon in Moenchengladbach on Sunday night.

Loew started with a strong team full of attacking talent and, once again, his side struggled to create chances and kill off the game.

At the heart of such a problem lies one of the most gifted players of his generation, Mesut Ozil, whose form for the national team has not only compromised any favour fans may have shown towards him before the tournament, but the fortunes of his entire team as well.

To put Ozil's importance to Germany into context, we must first consider the problems that have arisen at the business end of the first team. 

Where Germany once played direct, physical football, they have spent the last four years turning towards a more indirect, possession-based game under Loew.

This has meant the demise and ultimate banishing of old-fashioned penalty box strikers and target men such as Bayer Leverkusen's Stefan Kiessling and Fiorentina's Mario Gomez for smaller, more technical players like Goetze.

It was indeed the new Bayern Munich wonderkid who led the German line on Sunday night, yet Loew hasn't been able to effectively convert his national team to this new style of play without a number of bumps and hiccups along the way.

Such a tactic only works when the imagination and creativity in midfield are firing on all cylinders.

On occasion, we've seen Germany purr as well as Spain on any given day, but too often have we seen Loew's side stumble when Ozil hasn't showed up with the goods.

We now find ourselves just days away from the World Cup and Germany still aren't entirely sure how they'll line up against Portugal on the first day. Can they rely on this new system? Will Ozil pull through and offer that special touch in midfield?


When we take a look at the goals and assists that Ozil has amassed for Germany since his breakthrough in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, in the table above, we see just how consistently brilliant the Arsenal midfielder has been.

One notable dip is from this current season, which has seen Ozil play four games, create two assists, yet score absolutely nothing.

Not a great warm-up to the next streak of international games he'll undoubtedly be partaking in in just a week or two.

If we were to take a timeline of the midfielder's international career, we would undoubtedly be looking at something of a dip compared to what he has accomplished in the German colours over the past few years.

Of course it's hard to look at Germany's squadfull to the brim with incredible domestic and continental championsand not wonder why Ozil simply cannot be replaced with someone of similar skill or reputation. 

When we actually go through the roster, though, it becomes abundantly clear.


The likes of Marco Reus, Goetze and Andre Schurrle are all wonderful players who will undoubtedly feature in the first team throughout the competition, but with just five caps between them at senior international competitions for Germany, the team simply cannot ask either one to individually replace the genius of Ozil.

In fact, the only players who come close to Ozil's quality and experience at such an age are Lukas Podolski and Mueller, who played 10 and 11 games during the 2010 World Cup and 2012 Euros, respectively.

As we see from the graph above, Podolski falls short of his Arsenal teammate in terms of what he can actually contribute per game, while Mueller offers just as much on paper but certainly a stronger dependence on finishing plays rather than creating them.

To put it quite bluntly, no player in this German squad can truly offer what Ozil can in terms of quality and experience from the position of attacking midfielder.

For all of Germany's brilliance between the posts, in defence, midfield and attack, it's one small player who drifts between them all that could end up being their Achilles' heel this summer.

If we don't see the very best of Ozil in Brazil in just a few days' time, we may not see much of Germany at all.


All data used in this article came from transfermarkt.co.uk.


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