German national team manager Joachim Low will be one of the many National squad managers losing sleep over a tiny piece of paper with a bunch of names on it leading up to June 11.
Having already announced their 27-man provisional squad on May 6, Low now is faced with the task of making four more cuts en route to the final squad announcement before kick off in South Africa.
Low has already put his foot down on several controversial decisions regarding invitations to the party. Form and injuries of prospective members are also playing a factor, as they always do.
Scan the provisional roster and one thing jumps out: youth. Low has clearly made note of the form and energy of several of the Bundesliga's top young players, giving seven bright-eyed German players who are either 20 or 21 years of age a chance at making the final cut.
Germany's 2010 World Cup roster may include some names that are subject to speculation for a fan of average involvement, but Joachim Low is determined to infuse the nominally big, bad and bruising Germans with a sexier and faster style of play. His predominantly green provisional roster is a testament to that.
Here are the 23 players I expect to see touchdown in South Africa for the German side.
Below is Germany's 27-man provisional squad that was announced by manager Joachim Low on May 6, 2010.
Goalkeepers: Joerg Butt (Bayern Munich), Manuel Neuer (Schalke), Tim Wiese (Werder Bremen)
Defenders: Dennis Aogo (Hamburger SV), Holger Badstuber (Bayern Munich), Andreas Beck (Hoffenheim), Jerome Boateng (Hamburger SV), Arne Friedrich (Hertha Berlin), Marcell Jansen (Hamburger SV), Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich), Per Mertesacker (Werder Bremen), Serdar Tasci (Stuttgart), Heiko Westermann (Schalke)
Midfielders: Michael Ballack (Chelsea), Sami Khedira (Stuttgart), Toni Kroos (Bayer Leverkusen), Marko Marin (Werder Bremen), Mesut Oezil (Werder Bremen), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich), Christian Traesch (Stuttgart), Piotr Trochowski (Hamburger SV)
Forwards: Cacau (Stuttgart), Mario Gomez (Bayern Munich), Stefan Kiessling (Bayer Leverkusen), Miroslav Klose (Bayern Munich), Thomas Mueller (Bayern Munich), Lukas Podolski (Cologne)
With Germany's tentative roster being released earlier than most teams'. I would like to take a step further and state my predictions as to who the final 23-man roster will include.
The World Cup may be several weeks away, but it's never too early to start looking toward the horizon.
NEUER, BUTT, WIESE
Unfortunately, the selection of the keepers should be one of the easier decisions for Low to make.
With the days of Kahn and Lehmann very far gone, 2010 was supposed to be a changing of the guard between the sticks for Germany. Tragically, Robert Enke, the frontrunner to wear No. 1 for the Germans committed suicide in November.
His likely replacement was Rene Adler of Leverkusen, however the 25-year old phenom just announced he would not be match-play fit in time for the Cup due to rib surgery that he will undergo shortly.
Thus, the choosing of keepers has been more of a "who's left?" situation for Joachim Low. Bremen's Tim Wiese and Schalke's Manuel Neuer were dead certs to make the squad from the get-go, but now the possibility of them starting grows ever the more real.
Low made a calculated move in calling up Bayern's 35 year old veteran keeper Hans-Joerg Butt to replace Adler on the provisional roster.
Butt's 3 caps (all in routings) aren't going to make anyone quake in their boots, but Germany needs all the international experience they can get right now.
Wiese and Neuer are both solid options in net. Butt I think is simply too old and worn out to even be considered for the starting job.
Low has been keeping his cards close to his chest in regards as to who has the upper hand in the starting job and although Wiese has been enjoying a successful season for Werder Bremen this year, I believe the 24 year old Neuer gives Germany the best chance to win.
Projected Starter: Manuel Neuer
LAHM, BECK, MERTESACKER, WESTERMANN, TASCI, BOATENG, AOGO, BADSTUBER
Late additions of back line hopefuls Dennis Aogo of HSV and Holger Badstuber of Bundesliga Champions Bayern Munich are an embodiment of the youth and skill that Low is trying to promote on Germany.
The controversial dropping of Torsten Frings turned some supporters heads this year. It also turned the head of Michael Ballack, who publicly criticized Low for such a move, it took a press conference for the two to openly make amends.
Frings is out indefinitely, but Berlin's Arne Friedrich is on the provisional roster and is a big question mark. Friedrich has international experience, but I think the plethora of ripe talent that Low has piled onto his tentative roster will crowd out the aging Friedrich.
Germany will look to the leadership of their seasoned fullbacks Phillip Lahm and Per Mertesacker to tame this eager and talented group, however several of the names that should make the cut are already proven leaders on their respective squads at such a young age.
Badstuber was called up amidst Bayern's capturing of their 22nd Bundesliga title, the young center back has proven to be a rock on the backline, and has plenty of league experience along side national teammate Phillip Lahm. Serdar Tasci of Stuttgart also plays years beyond his age.
The rest of the bunch is teeming with talent and potential, the defensive lineup is truly up in the air right now save for Lahm. Aogo and Boeteng provide good pace, and many of the others are versatile, possessing the ability to play inside or out.
Projected Starters: RB- Lahm CB's- Mertesacker, Tasci LB- Boateng
BALLACK, SCHWEINSTEIGER, OZIL, MARIN, TROCHOWSKI, KHEDIRA, KROOS
Micheal Ballack is the undisputed leader of the German side and serves as the fulcrum for a midfield unit that possesses a supreme blend of young talent and valuable experience.
Schweinsteiger and Ballack are real gamers, holding countless caps to their names, they are ready to lead the German side into battle in South Africa.
Mesut Ozil and Marko Marin could be Low's aces in the hole during the 2010 World Cup, both are plenty comfortable with each other (they both play for Werder Bremen) both are young and obviously, talented.
Ozil could be one of the best young players in the world and Low will be looking to utilize him as much as possible in pushing the ball up the pitch.
Toni Kroos is another Bayern man, on loan from Leverkusen. Kroos garners attention with his expertise on long passes, crosses and set pieces, much like Schweinsteiger.
Sami Khedira was groomed under Low while at Stuttgart and continues to shine for the Swabians, earning himself a spot on the team.
Hamburg's Trochowski possesses deadly foot skills both dribbling and shooting, many a German supporter would like to see him in the starting XI.
Stuttgart's Christian Trasch was another name being kicked around to see some time at midfield.
Low clearly deployed some bias towards his former club when picking the provisional roster, Trasch is good but is not ready to play at the national level, expect to see him dropped along with winger/midfielder combo Marcell Jansen.
A knee injury to Simon Rolfes of Leverkusen and the poor form of Lazio's Thomas Hitzlsperger both saw them get left by the wayside even from the provisional roster.
The absence of these two stalwarts opens the door for fresh new faces to star for Germany at the midfield position. Ballack will lead the charge, but it could be a revolving door from game to game for the rest of the midfield unit.
Projected Starters: Ballack, Ozil, Schweinsteiger, Trochowski
KLOSE, PODOLKSI, KIESSLING, CACAU, MUELLER
The forward position is the most controversial for the Germans heading into South Africa.
Schalke 04's Kevin Kuranyi walked out on the team last year for not being inserted into the starting lineup for a crucial qualifier against Russia.
Kuranyi has been on sensational form in the Bundesliga this year, and supporters and management alike were putting pressure on Low to bring Kuranyi to South Africa, despite the rift between them.
However, Low recently closed the book on the situation, dashing Kuranyi's World Cup dreams. Low insisted that their altercation had nothing to do with Kuranyi getting left off the provisional roster, but the issue is still unresolved in my eyes.
Bayern's "Super" Mario Gomez is another topic of debate. Gomez is an electric finisher with a keen nose for the goal, that is, when he's not in a national squad uniform.
Gomez took the Bundesliga by storm a few years ago when he led Stuttgart to a League Title. Since being transferred to Munich he's had some injury trouble and cooled off a bit in terms of scoring, but still presents a viable option up top.
However, Gomez has been downright dreadful in international play on any level. He simply seems to go missing in games and has botched several clear chances. Mario couldn't hit the broad side of a barn in Euro 2008, culminating with this debacle of a finish against Austria http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gL4tOiCPfzs&feature=related (kids, shield your eyes). It pains me to say Low will leave him off the final roster, but I forsee it happening.
Unfortunately, Gomez is the least of Germany's problems at the forward position. Usual studs Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski have combined for a whopping 5 league goals this season.
Klose lost his starting job for Bayern and Podolski almost got Cologne relegated. Look for Low to subsidize the lack of league production by adding Leverkusen's Stefan Kiessling and Klose's young Bayern replacement Thomas Mueller to the final squad.
It has also been a long time coming for Stuttgart's Brazilian born striker Cacau. While he is older than Mueller and Kiessling, I expect to see Low bring him along anyway.
Cacau provides a good Brazilian-style flare to his game and was on top form this year in what he proclaimed to be his last seaon playing for VfB. He may be the last forward added but don't be surprised if he ends up contributing in a big way.
Projected Starters: Klose and Podolski (on tenure alone)