FIFA World Cup 2010: Who Can Replace Schweinsteiger for the England Game?
German midfield general and vice-captain of 'die mannschaft' Bastian Schweinsteiger seems to be a rather serious doubt for the vital round of 16 game against England on Sunday.
Those England fans who have been aware of Schweinsteiger's rise this year will be forgiven for hoping his muscle strain lasts an extra day or two, while German fans will praying for a speedy recovery.
Schweinsteiger who many will remember as a winger from the 2008 European Championships has recently fallen back into a central midfield position, where he has excelled. He has both the skill to pick a pass and beat a man one-on-one, as well as the grit to track back enthusiastically and he does not shirk from the physical aspects of his position.
Perhaps Loew will be punished for not calling up veteran war-horse Torsten Frings, or tried and tested midfielder Thomas Hitzelsperger as Loew now finds himself rather short on options should Schweinsteiger not manage to play.
Here are the players likely to replace Schweinsteiger should it come to it.
Toni Kroos : Despite Schweinsteiger's youthfulness Toni Kroos might well consider himself as his natural successor. A playmaker who can also operate on the wings he does however lack Schweinsteiger's physical presence.
What he lacks in strength he does make up in technique, he has an absolutely deadly volley and excellent freekick ability. He is only 20 and that might count against him in Loew's mind. He has less than 4 caps and has only just finished his first season of regular football.
Jerome Boateng: Defensive all-rounder Jermoe Boateng is also struggling with a muscle strain, but were we to assume he will be fit to play it is a possibility that he will slot into a defensive midfield position.
Boateng's presence in midfield would add steel to the German midfield but rob it of guile, he is big, quick and strong, but his passing is not as good as Schweinsteiger's. Much of the deep-lying creative onus would fall to Sami Khedira while Boateng shields the back four, dropping back as a third centre back when Germany are under pressure.
Dennis Aogo: The fast wing-back might find himself dragooned into a defensive midfield position where his pace and tackling ability should make up for a lack of positional skill. This would be a dangerous option for Loew to take as Aogo is largely untested at international level, and untested in a midfield position.
Marcell Jansen: The huge wing-back would add pace and tackling to the position, and his vaster experience over Aogo might well compensate for a lack of natural midfield positioning. One worry is that Jansen has not seen much action since a ankle injury mid-season for Hamburg, and might well be lacking match fitness. Helping allay that fear is that fact that he played the last ten minutes against Ghana and seemed enthusiastic and able. Aogo and Jansen are to be considered as a last resort for this position.
None: An alternative option available to Loew is to play with only Khedira in defensive midfield and to play a diamond formation, with Khedira at one tip and Oezil at the other playing behind two strikers. If Loew played Cacau then he would rove deep anyway and stop Khedira being overrun.
Another unlikely option is to play Klose and Gomez as a front two, an option which could offer serious aerial threat for England. This option might also necessitate Gareth Barry being forced to hang back, something England have not been troubled by yet as they have largely faced single striker teams.
Are the options given viable or was Loew foolish to not bring adequate cover? Can Germany win without Schweinsteiger? Offer your opinion below.
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