What Are Germany's Best Options in Midfield at the World Cup in Brazil?

Cristian NyariContributor IJune 11, 2014

Germany's national soccer player Philipp Lahm warms up besides head coach Joachim Loew during a training session in Santo Andre near Porto Seguro, Brazil, Tuesday, June 10, 2014. Germany will play in group G of the 2014 soccer World Cup. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

Germany's World Cup opener against Portugal is just five days away, and many questions are still unanswered regarding the team's starting line-up.

Injuries and absences have disrupted what would otherwise be a fairly straightforward starting eleven for Joachim Loew's side.

Most of the attention has focused on who will start up front, with Miroslav Klose likely playing a role off the bench.

However, the team's most pressing—and arguably most decisive—issue is in midfield, particularly in central midfield. With less than a week to go until their first game no one is quite sure who Loew will start there.

More worryingly, no one is quite sure whether Loew's options will even be fit enough to start against Portugal, much less take part.

Former Germany international Dietmar Hamann was not wrong when he said that this will be a problem area for the team and one that could ultimately affect their performance.

That is why Loew's choices and the players' form will be key in deciding whether Germany will meet their potential or fall flat again.

Michael Probst/Associated Press

To start, both first-choice central midfielders—Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira—were in a race to get fit after battling injuries this season. Khedira tore a knee ligament last year while Schweinsteiger has been battling recurring ankle injuries all year long.

On top of that, Loew was dealt several blows as three other options, Ilkay Gundogan and the Bender brothers, were all ruled out of the tournament with injuries of their own.

This forced Loew to call into camp and eventually include in the squad two inexperienced young players in Matthias Ginter and Christoph Kramer. The combined two have just under 200 minutes of international first team experience.

Unlikely to risk starting either Kramer or Ginter and providing Khedira and Schweinsteiger are not fit in time, Loew will have no choice but to go with Toni Kroos and Philipp Lahm against Portugal.

Questions were also raised over whether Lahm would retain his place in midfield or return to the right-back position he has been playing for much of qualifying, a position Germany have also had a problem finding adequate replacements in.

But the fact that Lahm played in midfield in the friendly against Armenia and recently voiced his preference to stay in midfield points to him being Loew's first choice there come the Portugal game.

For all intents and purposes, Loew will structure the team around Lahm in midfield, a role he excelled at with Bayern Munich this season and one that has really gotten the best out of the players around him.

Who, then, is the ideal compliment to Lahm? Of all other options, Kroos is the most experienced and fittest. He has played the role several times before for club and country, but some still think he is best playing in a more attacking role behind the striker.

Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

Indeed, due to Mesut Ozil's inconsistent form, there has been talk of Loew dropping Ozil in favor of Kroos, which would in turn create a vacancy in midfield.

Ideally, one of Schweinsteiger and Khedira will start alongside Lahm in Brazil, and that will very much depend on their fitness.

Despite returning to action just last month, Khedira seems to have made greater strides and appears further along in his recovery. He also started Germany's last two friendlies which points to him being the most likely candidate to start next to Lahm.

And at this moment, a combination of Khedira and Lahm is probably the best way forward for Germany. Schweinsteiger's nagging injuries appear not only to have slowed him down but they have affected his ability to really impose himself on games as he did so successfully in South Africa four years ago.

Khedira and Lahm, on the other hand, seem to have bounced back from injury without a notable drop in form and also complement each other on the field. 

Whereas Khedira and Schweinsteiger largely shared the same duties, Lahm and Khedira should have more clearly defined roles, which in turn should make Germany's game more organised and run smoother.

Lahm will sit and distribute the ball while Khedira will have more license to roam and join the attack. On paper it is the ideal partnership to compliment Germany's free-flowing interchangeable attack. 

Perhaps even more than four years ago, Germany's performance in Brazil will hinge greatly on the performance of their central midfielders. 

Let's see what Loew decides.