Germany have one of the most talented squads in the world, but things will get difficult right away at the 2014 World Cup with an opening match against Portugal.
While Joachim Low had plenty of elite options at virtually every position, he thinks he has found the right combination of players to start a championship run. This all started with getting the roster down to just 23 men, which he did with the official list, courtesy of the Deutscher Fussball-Bund website.
The manager was then able to pick the 11 best players out of this group and task them with taking on Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal in Germany's first World Cup match.
Take a look at the starting XI for the upcoming contest:
|Germany Lineup vs. Portugal|
Whether you agree with the lineup or not, it is hard to deny that there is loads of talent all over the pitch.
When healthy, Manuel Neuer is as good as it gets in net. ESPN FC recently rated him as the best goalkeeper at the World Cup in its list of the top 50 players in the tournament:
The problem is that health is a major issue for Neuer heading into the tournament, as he looks to recover from a shoulder injury. It took a long time for him to join the team for light training, meaning it's unlikely he'll be at 100 percent.
Low obviously felt comfortable enough putting Neuer in the lineup, but if the goalkeeper is forced to make any diving saves in the match, he'll want to be cautious.
The squad had a few options at centre-back, but it likely came down to picking two of the trio between Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels and Per Mertesacker.
Boateng and Hummels have proven to be among the best in the Bundesliga, but Mertesacker has also been impressive with Arsenal in the English Premier League. He recently explained why his club success will help him going forward, via Kit Holden of the Daily Mail:
Winning the FA Cup has given me a lot of confidence. It has set me up to get another highlight, something which I can definitely achieve.
We want to go further than we have been in previous competitions. Those who have watched us know what that means. We don’t want to constantly only reach third place.
Marcel Schmelzer's poor fitness has opened the door for Benedikt Howedes to take over the position.
Marcus Walker of The Wall Street Journal broke down the unique lineup for Germany before their match with Portugal:
The left and right backs, Höwedes and Boateng, are normally central defenders. Its best right (and left) back, Lahm, is playing as the central midfielder. He’s flanked by two guys, Kroos and Khedira, who normally play in the position Lahm is taking up. There’s no proper center-forward: instead, midfielder Müller will lead the attack. He’ll be flanked by two creative central midfielders – Özil and Götze – playing as the wingers.
The midfield is undoubtedly the strength of the club with premier talent and loads of depth on the roster.
Injuries slowed down Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira in recent months, but the latter appears to be healthy enough to pair as a holding midfielder. Toni Kroos will get the start in place of Schweinsteiger.
Meanwhile, the attacking roles have brought along a bit of debate from fans. Mesut Ozil has been a star for Germany in the past, but poor form has led to questions about his utility in the lineup. Ryland James of Agence France-Presse felt the midfielder did not deserve a spot:
Despite this, Low has decided to stick with the talented player and will hope that he is able to return to his peak ability.
There are few questions about the other attacking options. Mario Gotze will take over the position and hope to showcase his finishing ability, which has been on display throughout his time at Bayern Munich. He is one of the most versatile players on the roster and can play a big role no matter where he ends up on the pitch.
Philipp Lahm is one of the best in the world at the position. Like Neuer, he has missed time with injuries. However, the captain should be able to contribute at a high level for the team.
Miroslav Klose is the only true striker on the roster and is 35 years old, but he does bring a wealth of experience. In fact, he has 14 goals at three World Cup tournaments in his career and is looking to keep this up with his great finishing ability.
Although he will not get the start in the first match, you can be certain that he will contribute in some way in the first few competitions.
Thomas Muller will also create plenty of opportunities for this offense.
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