Rising Stars of German Football: Defenders
Germany has always been considered as a very efficient unit when it comes to major international events and generally the secret behind their efficiency is a very solid and well-coordinated defence. The following are some of the young defenders who are expected to help prolong this rich tradition:
The right-back position has proven to be a problem area for the German national team over the past couple of years. Arne Friedrich played in the right-back slot during the last World Cup and for much of EURO 2008 but he was more often than not considered as a bit of a weak-link in the side. Friedrich is definitely far more effective when he plays as a centre-back.
Phillip Lahm also played in the position a few times but clearly he prefers to play in his natural position at left-back. However, Germany has finally managed to find the solution to this problem, in the form of Andreas Beck.
Andreas Beck made his debut for Stuttgart in early 2006 and went on to make 28 appearances for the side before moving to Hoffenheim during the summer of 2008.
At Hoffenheim he has been a revelation. His darting runs on the right flank combined with pinpoint crosses have terrorized most Bundesliga opponents, during much of last season. His efficient performances helped Hoffenheim to reach top spot before the winter break and soon he was called up to the international squad.
He made his debut for the national side in a friendly against Norway, early this year. Before that, Beck represented Germany in the U-21 Championships and put in some dazzling displays. He scored the only goal in the semi-final against Italy and proved to be a handful for the English, as the Germans recorded a comprehensive 4-0 victory in the final.
As he is only 22 right now, Beck has definitely got age on his side and therefore should improve further in the years to come. With Beck on the right and Lahm on the left, things are certainly looking good for Germany.
Another youngster in the same mould as Beck is Jérôme Boateng. Boateng is the son of a German mother and Ghanaian father and has two brothers, Kevin-Prince and George, both of whom are footballers. Jérôme is a versatile player who can play as a full-back or in the heart of defence.
Having come through the youth ranks at Hertha Berlin, Boateng jumped ship and joined Hamburg in 2007 and since then he has chalked up 52 appearances for the Bundesliga outfit.
He was part of the German U-21 Championship winning side and impressive performances in the tournament have seen him come to the fringes of the international squad. Considering the potential he has shown already at the age of 21, it seems like that it will only be a matter of time before he makes his debut in the coveted German colours.
A talented young left-back, Marcel Schäfer moved to Wolfsburg from second division side, 1860 Munich in 2007. Since then his development has seen an upward trend under the guidance of Felix Magath and his impressive performances at domestic level earned him a call-up to the international squad in 2008.
He has been capped six times thus far and already he looks to have done enough to show that he is not out of his league at the highest level. Schäfer’s playing style is quite similar to Lahm as he is very solid in defence and equally comfortable with the ball at his feet.
About Schäfer, Felix Magath said last season: “Marcel is the kind of lad who always works hard on himself and pushes himself to the limit in every training session. His example shows how you can improve and develop. It is obviously also good for Wolfsburg that we have a player currently in the Germany national team."
That says a lot regarding what Schäfer is all about and provided he continues to work hard enough, he might just prove to be a valuable asset for Germany.
He is a product of the Bayern Munich youth academy and can play as a centre-back or in midfield. He was knocking on the door of the first team during the 2008/09 season and finally made his debut for the senior side in the first match of the 2009/10 season against Hoffenheim.
He has so far made three appearances for the German giants and his performances suggest that he is not a person who is easily intimidated and certainly doesn’t look out of place.
He was recently called up to the German U-21 squad in a match against Turkey, having earlier been part of the U-19 and U-20 teams. After selling Lucio, the Bayern management has decided to put faith in this 20-year-old youngster and that in itself clearly emphasizes the fact that Badstuber is definitely a bright prospect for the future.
Hummels is another product of the renowned youth academy of Bayern and made his debut for the senior side in the final match of the 2006/07 season against Mainz.
With the view of giving the young prospect an opportunity to shine at the biggest stage, Bayern decided to let Hummels join Borussia Dortmund on loan, midway through the 2007/08 season. He grabbed the opportunity with both hands and quickly established himself in the first team, forming a very effective partnership with Neven Subotic at the heart of defence.
His desire to play regular first team football eventually forced Bayern to reluctantly allow him to join Dortmund on a permanent basis, in early 2009. In a recent match against his former employers, Hummels managed to get himself on the score-sheet but was powerless to stop Bayern from recording a thumping 5-1 victory at Dortmund.
Hummels was part of the U-21 team that won the 2009 European Championship and even though he wasn’t greatly involved during the initial stages of the tournament, he was included in the starting line-up for the final against England and justified his selection by putting in an assured display.
As he is only 20 right now, his best years are still ahead of him and even though he is likely to face stiff competition for a place in the national side, one can safely say that Hummels has got the pedigree to succeed at the highest level.
Benedikt Höwedes is a strong centre-back who is also equally adept at playing as a defensive midfielder. The fact that he is already an integral part of the Schalke team, at the tender age of 21 says a lot about his abilities as a footballer.
A surprising thing about Höwedes is that he actually made his debut for Schalke in the Champions League (2007) before making an appearance in the Bundesliga. He has been a regular feature in the first team since then and has build up a reputation for himself as one of the most reliable young defenders in the league.
In September 2007, the German Football Association (DFB) presented Höwedes with the Fritz-Walter medal as he was considered to be the best player of his age-group in the 2006/07 season.
He has represented Germany at all levels of youth football and a call-up to the senior squad seems to be just around the corner. Höwedes is very highly rated in Germany and even though the upcoming World Cup might be too early for him, it won’t be a surprise to see him acting as an influential figure in the German defence, in World Cup 2014.
Having already been capped nine times by Germany, Tasci is not a stranger to German fans anymore. He is of Turkish descent but opted to play for Germany as he was born and raised in the country.
Tasci plays as a centre-back for Stuttgart and has raked up 74 senior appearances for the Bundesliga club (till the end of 2008/09 season), since making his debut in the 2006/07 season. He has a good physique for a defender, can read the game quite well and is very strong in the air, all of which are vital attributes for any good defender.
His potential has not gone unnoticed and he was given his first senior international call-up in a friendly match against Belgium on 20th August 2008, which Germany won 2-0. Provided Tasci can maintain his high level of performance, he will definitely be one to look out for in the next World Cup.
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