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Picking Germany's 2018 World Cup Squad After End of Qualification Campaign

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterOctober 9, 2017

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - OCTOBER 05: Thomas Muller of Germany during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between Northern Ireland and Germany at Windsor Park on October 5, 2017 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Germany's 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign has finished and, predictably, it's been a resounding success. Ten played, 10 won, an astonishing 43 goals scored and just four conceded.

It brings Die Mannschaft to within sight of the finals in Russia in fine fettle. All eyes will be on Joachim Low and his men due to their status of defending champions, and it's fair to say the strength of the national pool means the manager has some difficult decisions to make when it comes to picking his 23-man squad for the tournament.

Here, we offer a projection of what that 23-strong collection might look likeand by the same token, highlight those who will likely miss out as a result.


Goalkeepers

Manuel Neuer

He's injured until 2018, with a cracked metatarsal forcing him on to the treatment table for a third time this year, but when he's fit, there's no doubt Neuer is the No. 1 choice for his country.

Cast your minds back to 2014 and Germany's World Cup win, and it was the Bayern Munich stopper who was arguably the best performer in that team. His defining actions throughout the knockout stagesand in particular against Algeriapaved the way to the final.

Providing his foot's not bothering him, Neuer's the automatic choice between the sticks.

HAMBURG, GERMANY - OCTOBER 08:  Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer of Germany reacts during the FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifying match between Germany and Czech Republic at Volksparkstadion on October 8, 2016 in Hamburg, Germany.  (Photo by Boris Streubel/Getty Images
Boris Streubel/Getty Images

Marc-Andre ter Stegen

When Ter Stegen first began featuring for Germany his wrists turned to jelly; it was peculiar to see him look so confident for his club then melt in a national shirt.

But over the last year things have taken a turn for the better, and he's one hell of an option to boast as your No. 2 goalkeeper. 

He's getting more and more experienced on the international stagehe's up to 17 caps nowand is better than most other countries' first choices.

        

Bernd Leno

Ter Stegen's old national-stage jitters appear to have been transferred to Leno, who started Germany's first 2017 Confederations Cup game against Australia to disastrous effect and then was benched for the rest of the tournament.

But unless Low has a rough run of luck with injuries, Leno won't do anything more than take a seat on the bench. 

      

Missed the cut: Kevin Trapp


Defenders

Jerome Boateng

Fitness presumed (which, to be fair, is hardly guaranteed), Germany will contest the 2018 World Cup with the exact same centre-back pairing as last time, with Boateng joining Mats Hummels.

One of the finest in the world at his position, and a rival to Leonardo Bonucci for the title of best ball-playing defender on the planet, Boateng was brilliant at Euro 2016, brilliant in the 2014 World Cup final, and will probably be brilliant in Russia next year.

Hamburg, Deutschland, 08.10.2016, WM-Qualifikation 2017, Deutschland - Tschechische Republik, Jerome Boateng (GER)  (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)
TF-Images/Getty Images

Mats Hummels 

Like Boateng, Hummels has big-tournament pedigree; he's rarely put a foot wrong during finals for Germany, though perhaps he hasn't received as much credit as Boateng has.

That won't bother anyone in Germany's camp. As long as Hummels does what he does, and enters June injury-free, he'll play his usual part in one of the tournament's best defences.

         

Jonas Hector

Hector missed this most recent international break due to an ankle injury suffered during Cologne's loss to Arsenal in the Europa League. 

Low will be hoping and praying his recovery is smooth and well in time to get back up to match sharpness, as the depth at left-back is borderline-non-existent. Hertha Berlin's Marvin Plattenhardt is deputising for now, but don't expect him to travel to Russia unless Hector's 2018 goes very wrong.

         

Joshua Kimmich

That Bayern Munich decided to convert Kimmich to full-back on a permanent basis this season will have pleased Low immensely. Not only does it solve Die Roten's post-Philipp Lahm problem, but it fixes his own national-level one, too.

Kimmich impressed at Euro 2016 for Germany from the right, but he's a whole lot better from there now. Offensively he offers so much, with crossing a standout trait, and defensively he's surpassing expectations.

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - OCTOBER 05: Chris Brunt of Northern Ireland is tackled by Joshua Kimmich of Germany during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between Northern Ireland and Germany at Windsor Park on October 5, 2017 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Niklas Sule

Sule is now good enough to make the Germany squad on ability alone, but the fact he plays at Bayern Munich alongside Hummels, Boateng, Kimmich and Neuer makes his inclusion a bit of a no-brainer.

Familiarity can be hard to establish when many players combine from afar, so keeping things in-house can lead to success. Hummels and Boateng are both injury prone, so who better to step in than their club-level deputy?

Also, he's the future at centre-back. Finding him big-tournament experience this early could pay dividends later on.

         

Shkodran Mustafi

Mustafi's form for Arsenal hasn't been that strong of late, but he has the trust of Low, was a member of the 2014 World Cup-winning squad and is a pretty decent option to have knocking around at a tournament.

He also serves, ostensibly, as backup at full-back. It's not really a position he likes or plays often, but in 2014, Low utilised him on the flank to begin with, and the nation is severely lacking in back-up for this area.

The injury he suffered against Azerbaijan "doesn't look good," according to Low (per Sky Sports' Lyall Thomas), but the initial diagnosis of a thigh muscle tear wouldn't wreck his season.

        

Benedikt Howedes

Like Mustafi, Howedes holds Low's trust and was also a part of the 2014 success. He played every minute of every gameone of only three players to do so, the others being Lahm and Neuerand smacked the post with a header in the final.

Whether he can live off those past glories, and in the process hold off the challenge of Chelsea's Antonio Rudiger, may depend on how much football he plays at Juventus this season.

        

Missed the cut: Antonio Rudiger, Matthias Ginter, Benjamin Henrichs


Central Midfielders

Toni Kroos

Without a doubt Germany's most important piece deep in midfield is Kroos, who is a guaranteed starter. With his stellar passing performances at Euro 2016 still fresh in the memory, much will be expected of the Real Madrid man next summer.

As long as Kroos is situated in the centre for Die Mannschaft, they will control games, dictate the middle third of the pitch and utilise their multitude of attacking stars properly. He's the key to everything.

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - SEPTEMBER 01: Toni Kroos of Germany controls the ball during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between Czech Republic and Germany at Eden Stadium on September 1, 2017 in Prague. (Photo by TF-Images/TF-Images via Getty Images)
TF-Images/Getty Images

Sami Khedira

Khedira is showing definite signs of slowing down nowit's a wonder he's been able to keep his level so high for so long considering the state of his knee, in truthand perhaps whether he should start will become a vexing question for Low down the line.

What you can guarantee is that he'll be involved, though, as the value of his veteran outlook in such a key area of the pitch cannot be underestimated.

         

Sebastian Rudy

Rudy's late-career renaissance has come at the ideal time. He might have failed to graduate from the under-21 side to the seniors in fluid fashion, but he has belatedly become a regular part of Low's setup and has now earned 23 caps.

He's been in every squad since November 2016 and scored his first goal for his country against Northern Ireland in this international break. The fact he can also deputise at full-back works in his favour.

          

Julian Weigl

Weigl travelled to Euro 2016 as the designated Kroos backup. No one can truly replace the Real Madrid star's influence on the pitch, but Weigl is probably Low's best bet.

He didn't make the most recent squad due to the fact he's only just returned from a lengthy injury, but he marked his first start of the campaign with a wondergoal against Borussia Monchengladbach and looks eager to make up for lost time.

        

Ilkay Gundogan

The question with Gundogan is not his ability, but his fitness. He's only just back from an ACL tear and has already suffered one mini-setback, and the fact that set alarm bells ringing at Manchester City proves how fragile the midfielder is perceived to be at the moment.

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - OCTOBER 05:  Leon Goretzka of Germany looks on  during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between Northern Ireland and Germany at Windsor Park on October 5, 2017 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty
Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

Leon Goretzka

Goretzka offers a thrusting, goalscoring threat from central midfield that most, if not all, of Germany's other options do not, and that stands him in excellent stead when it comes to picking the squad.

He impressed greatly at the Confederations Cup and is really blossoming in the Bundesliga with Schalke. Keep this up and he might well be the reason someone like Emre Can is left at home.

        

Missed the cut: Emre Can


Attacking Midfielders

Mesut Ozil

Despite Germany's obvious footballing success at the last two major international tournaments, and Ozil's clear part in that, he's often overlooked or even criticised. It's a strange situation.

What's important for the Arsenal man is that Low appreciates what he brings to the team and will start him whenever he's fit. Expect him to take a central role in this team throughout their Russian campaign.

STUTTGART, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 04: Mesut Oezil of Germany controls the ball during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between Germany and Norway at Mercedes-Benz Arena on September 4, 2017 in Stuttgart, Baden-Wuerttemberg. (Photo by TF-Images/TF-Images via
TF-Images/Getty Images

Marco Reus

Of all of the incredibly talented, yet also incredibly injury-prone players Germany boast, Reus rules this particular roost. Absent for both the World Cup 2014 and Euro 2016, he'll be aiming to get to his first-ever major international tournament this coming summer...providing he returns from his current injury alright.

If he's fit he goes, because he's brilliant. 

         

Leroy Sane

We're still not at the point where Sane can be considered a starter for Germany, but if the ridiculous vein of form he's in for Manchester City right now lasts all season, perhaps Low will have something to reconsider.

For now, he's an electric option to come off the bench and change games, with his outrageous speed and rapidly improving finishing making him a terrifying reality for full-backs to match up against.

        

Julian Draxler

Draxler made a bold move at the beginning of this year, swapping Wolfsburg for Paris Saint-Germain, and it's proved to be exactly what he needed. He's stopped stagnating and started making good on his remarkable potentialmuch to Low's presumed delight.

Despite competing in an incredibly crowded, tight field, Draxler is now a sometime-starter for Die Mannschaft and more than justifies his selection when he takes to the pitch. His game-time with PSG has dipped since the arrival of Neymar, but he's entrenched in this German side now and isn't at risk.

STUTTGART, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 04: Joshua King of Norway, Julian Draxler of Germany during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between Germany and Norway at Mercedes-Benz Arena on September 4, 2017 in Stuttgart, Baden-Wuerttemberg. (Photo by Trond Tandberg/
Trond Tandberg/Getty Images

Mario Gotze

With Gotze fit, healthy and playing again, the door is open for him to claim a spot in Low's 23-man squad. If he and Borussia Dortmund maintain this incredible start to 2017-18, there might be no choice but to take him to Russia.

Be it as an attacking midfielder, a deeper, more controlling presence or even as a false-nine, Gotze has a role to play for Die Mannschaft and has the added kudos of being the one to score the winner in the 2014 World Cup final. That's exactly the kind of guy you want around when the games are piling up and the pressure is on.

         

Missed the cut: Julian Brandt, Lars Stindl, Kevin Volland, Max Meyer, Andre Schurrle


Strikers

Timo Werner

Germany are not blessed with a multitude of striking options, and between 2014 and 2016, it was a problematic area following the retirement of the legendary Miroslav Klose.

But the emergence of Werner has put paid to most of Low's concerns. His form for RB Leipzig throughout the 2016-17 season was superb, and he's started this campaign in good nick, too. As the Confederations Cup showed, his movement and poaching ability represent the perfect cherry atop this creative cake.

        

Thomas Muller

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - OCTOBER 05: Gareth McAuley of Northern Ireland and Thomas Muller of Germany during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between Northern Ireland and Germany at Windsor Park on October 5, 2017 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo b
Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Muller is, and likely always will be, an important part of this group. Despite the plethora of talent in midfield and the maturation of Werner, the 28-year-old captained Die Mannschaft against Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan and finished the joint-top-scorer in their qualifying group.

        

Missed the cut: Mario Gomez, Sandro Wagner

       

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All statistics via FIFA.com 

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