Germany Football: Rating the Bronze Medal-Winning U-17 World Cup Squad

Hasan EjazCorrespondent IJuly 12, 2011

Germany Football: Rating the Bronze Medal-Winning U-17 World Cup Squad

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    Its been a decade since the DFB radically revamped their youth development system and the national senior side have only just began to reap the rewards. The young stars that shone bright during the 2010 World Cup are the first youngsters to come through the conveyor belt, with many more waiting at the back. Some of those stars first made their presence known during the 2007 FIFA U-17 World Cup where the German side came in 3rd place, their best result since 1997. Toni Kroos, Sebastian Rudy and Kevin Trapp were amongst the squad that year and after a grueling Quarter-Final exit in the next edition of the competition in 2009 (even with Mario Goetze amongst the starters), the German Under 17 squad repeated the success of 2007 in 2011 by defeating Brazil 4-3 in an epic third place playoff to secure the Bronze Medal. 

    With the success of graduates like Toni Kroos and Mario Goetze from past Under 17 squads, there is a good likelihood that some of the players from the current squad will go on to become stars for their clubs sides and the German national team. Here is a rating of the some of the main contributors to the success in this years tournament.   

Goalkeeper: Odisseas Vlachodimas

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    DOB: 26/04/1994

    Club: Vfb Stuttgart

    He was tested quite regularly throughout the competition due to the porous German defence and still managed to put in a number of respectable performances. Conceding just thrice prior to the semi-final clash against Mexico, Vlachodimos suffered a drop of form and conceded 3 goals in the match, two of which were his due to his errors; even then, he can come out of the tournament with his head held high.  

    Strengths: Shot Stopping Ability, Speed

    Weaknesses: Kicking, Handling Crosses.

    2011 World Cup Rating: 7/10 

Right Back: Kaan Ayhan

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    DOB: 10/11/1994

    Club: FC Schalke 04

    A man of many positions, as a youngster should be trained as, Ayhan began the tournament as the substitute Right Back after spending the European U-17 Competition as a back-up Center Back. Due to the injury to regular Right Winger Mirco Born early in the first match of the tournament, Ayhan was brought into the Right Back position as the regular starter, Mitchell Wieser, was moved to Right Wing. Ayhan formed a great partnership with Wieser throughout the tournament and showed his strength going forward, especially against the weaker opponents. Defensively though he was exposed horribly in the last two matches and was rightfully substituted 35 minutes into the 3rd Place Playoff against Brazil as all 3 of Brazil's goals till then had come from his side. A dark spot on a decent overall tournament for the defender.

    Strengths: Bombing Forward, Passing

    Weaknesses: Stamina, Tackling

    2011 World Cup Rating: 6/10 

Center Back: Nico Perry

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    DOB: 02/02/1994

    Club: Arminia Bielefeld

    Defence was the weakest point in Germany's team but Nico Perry was probably the most impressive part of that area during the most troublesome times. He formed a very good partnership with Koran Guenter during the initial stages of the competition but that was sadly broken up for the most difficult encounters as Guenter suffered an injury and had to be rested. Germany suffered, as did Nico Perry, conceding a penalty against England which allowed them back into the match. Ultimately the defence was the reason for Germany's demise at the hands of brilliant Mexico.

    Strengths: Aerial Dominance

    Weaknesses: Lethargic, Immobile

    2011 World Cup Rating: 6/10 

Center Back: Koray Guenter

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    DOB: 16/08/1994

    Club: Borussia Dortmund

    In the 370 minutes Guenter was on the pitch, Germany conceded just one goal. In the 260 minutes he was off the pitch, Germany conceded 8 goals. Though it should be stated that Guenter played majority of those 370 minutes in the first round against Ecuador, Bukina Faso and Panama, the fact that Brazil couldn't score in the 55 minutes he was on the pitch after they scored 3 prior to his arrival states his importance to the side. His goal against Brazil, adding to his goals against the United States and Bukinao Faso, was also the catalyst for the incredible comeback that saw them win the Bronze Medal. A great goalscoring return for a defender. 

    Strengths: Heading, Tackling

    Weaknesses: Loss of Concentration.

    2011 World Cup Rating: 7/10

Left Back: Cimo Roecker

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    DOB: 21/01/1994

    Club: Werder Bremen

    The Left Back started off brightly, scoring the goal that put Germany 2-1 up in their opening game against Ecuador and generally showed more potential going forward then defending. He was brutally exposed in knockout matches and needed support more often then not from his Left Wing partner to deal with the threats down that side. 

    Strengths: Bombing Forward

    Weaknesses: Defensively Poor, Slow for a Wing Back

    2011 World Cup Rating: 5/10

Defensive Midfielder: Robin Yalcin

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    DOB: 25/01/1994

    Club: Vfb Stuttgart

    The 4-2-3-1 formation has been prevalent in Germany's national teams across all age groups and it wasn't different for this years Under 17 side. The formation as introduced a new type of position in midfield, the Deep Playmaker, which was the role given to Robin Yalcin. Sitting in behind the front 4 and alongside Emre Can, Yalcin was instructed to collect the ball from the defense and start attacks, which he did relatively well throughout the competition. He formed a great partnership with Emre Can and Germany's midfield was rarely overtaken in the competition when the captain and vice captain were on the pitch together.  

    Strengths: Passing, Defending

    Weaknesses: Physically Weak, Trying to much with the ball. 

    2011 World Cup Rating: 6/10

Central Midfielder: Emre Can (C)

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    DOB: 12/01/1994

    Club: Bayern Munich

    Germany have a proud history of producing dominating box-to-box midfielders. From the early beginnings of Beckenbaeur in 66' to Michael Ballack and Bastian Schweinsteiger of recent generations, the world's best central midfielders generally belong to the Mannschaft. Emre Can might add himself to that list very soon. No one dominated the center of the pitch during the tournament quite like the captain of Germany. His height and physique made him tower above his opponents and there was always one winner whenever he went in for a 50-50 challenge. While Ballack, Matthaus and Effenberg were great, Emre Can adds something new the German box-to-box midfielder cliche. Since he is of Turkish decent, Can has added the culture of his parent country (much like Mesut Ozil and Mehmet Scholl did) into his footballing play and so while he is able to bomb past 2-3 players at will, he can create a play with a softest of back heels and general creativity that wasn't within the likes of Matthaus. He scored one of the goals of the tournament against Mexico and it was his substitution in the semi-final that, according to majority of the viewers, that enabled Mexico to fight back from 2-1 down to win. Having already trained with the Bayern Munich first team last season, he seems all ready to make the next big move in his career. 

    Strengths: Physique, Determination, Technique

    Weaknesses: Decision Making.

    2011 World Cup Rating: 9/10 

Right Winger: Mitchell Wieser

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    DOB: 21/04/1994

    Club: FC Cologne

    Starting off as the Number 2 in Germany's squad, Mitchell Wieser was dealt a tricky hand by the footballing Gods as he was immediately moved further up the pitch as the regular Right Winger was injured in the first match. As it happened, Wieser played his cards to perfection and ended the tournament with impressive stats of 3 goals and 3 assists in 7 matches. A player in the mould of Thomas Mueller, Wieser used the ball to perfection and while some of his attacking team mates were more willing to try and beat their opponent, Wieser played the pass when the time was right. A terror during the early stages of the competition, Weiser's performances dipped in the last two matches as his constant running in the boiling Mexican sun took a toll on his energy.

    Strengths: Intelligence, Work Rate, All Round Player.

    Weaknesses: Stamina.

    2011 World Cup Rating: 8/10

Left Winger: Okan Aydin

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    DOB: 08/05/1994

    Club: Bayer Leverkusen

    Germany haven't been short of talented wingers lately and Okan Aydin seems to be continuing that tradition. Right footed, tricky, confident and armed with probably the best long shot in his age group, Aydin was a threat in every match he played. Though he missed two matches with a harsh red card against Panama, Aydin finished with 4 goals, 2 of them coming in the final match against Brazil. At times he showed too much eagerness to drive forward and beat his markers, which was a problem prevalent in most of Germany's attackers. A good tournament overall, which could've been better had he not missed the matches against the USA and England. 

    Strengths: Dribbling, Creative, Shooting

    Weaknesses: Physically Weak, Selfish in Possession.

    2011 World Cup Rating: 7/10

Center Attacking Midfielder: Levent Aycicek

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    DOB: 12/02/1994

    Club: Werder Bremen

    Being at Bremen, Aycicek would've seen the likes of Micoud, Diego and Ozil become heroes for his club playing the No.10 position and would have aspirations himself of replicating their performances. Similar to Aydin in his style of play, Aycicek is an unusual playmaker in that he actually isn't a great passer of the ball but manages to create dangerous situations with his dribbling talent. Ending the tournament with 3 goals and 4 assists, including a match winning goal and assist performance against Brazil, Aycicek can be proud of his performances and that he was part of the best offensive line-up not only in this years tournament but including many before.

    Strengths: Dribbling, Shooting, Set Pieces

    Weaknesses: Passing, Selfishness

    2011 World Cup Rating: 7/10 

Forward: Semed Yesil

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    DOB: 25/05/1994

    Club: Bayer Leverkusen

    There are some young players that from watching just 20 minutes you just know that they are something special, I had a similar feeling with Ozil when he was at Schalke and Kroos when I saw him in 2007 (among others who failed, it should be said), a similar feeling ran by me when I gazed upon Samed Yesil's footballing skills. Filling the lone striker role in a 4-2-3-1 demands more from a striker then any other position, you are not only expected to score goals but also be a creative outlet for the side to create chances for your fellow attackers. Few are able to fulfill all those requirements and commit themselves to being the 'complete striker'. David Villa, Samuel Eto'o, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez are amongst the few today that can proudly hold that title and Samed Yesil looks likely to join that list in a few years.

    He came into the tournament with a reputation (nicknamed 'Gerd' by his teammates) after being the top scorer in the European U-17 Championships and having a tremendous domestic season with the Leverkusen U-17 and U-19 squad (14 goals in 22 matches for U-17), he increased that reputation from domestic to international by the end of the tournament. 6 goals and 8 assists from 7 matches was his overall tally, one un-matched by any other player in terms of overall contribution to his teams offense showcasing an array of classy finishing and tremendous playmaking skill and creativity along the way.

    Strengths: Technique, Finishing, Offensive Awareness, Teamwork

    Weaknesses: Not an Aerial Threat, Physically Weak

    2011 World Cup Rating: 10/10

The Bench

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    Marvin Ducksch, Striker/Winger: Had an even crazier domestic goalscoring season then Yesil (33 in 18) but hasn't produced the same for Germany. Replaced Aydin at LW when the winger was banned for his red card and did well until late in the England match when he almost singlehandedly gifted Germany's lead to the English with two horrendous error's, one on each side of the pitch. 

    Rating: 6/10

    Rani Khedira, Central Midfielder: Was a regular substitute for either one of the central midfielders or attackers if coach Steffen Freund wanted to play defensive. Produced nothing special and made Emre Can's presence in the side felt even more when he started in his place against Brazil and contributed to the German midfield being dominated for much of the match. 

    Rating: 5/10

    Noah Korczowski, Central Defender: Replaced Guenter after the starting CB was injured and played the matches against England, Mexico and Brazil where Germany conceded 8 goals. Looked surprisingly better at RB when Freund made the surprised change early in the match. Generally average throughout those matches

    Rating: 5/10

Conclusions

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    The 4-2-3-1 system encouraging a free flowing attack is one German fans have now grown used to under Joachin Low (since Euro 2008). It seems to be preferred system for many sides, club and international, and has been adopted fully by the German national side at all levels, so it wasn't surprising to see Freund go with the same formation. It is good for the younger players since they would not move into the national side playing a system that is foreign to them and would help them integrate into the squad better.

    Look at the chances of the players reaching the top national level. The defenders don't seem to be good enough at the moment, while the attackers will face stiff competition from past graduates of the U-17 and U-19 squads. With the likes of Goetze, Schurrle, Reus and Marin still very young and already very good, Aydin, Aycicek and Wieser will have to improve tremendously in order to pip one of those players for a spot in the national setup.

    Samed Yesil looks to be a blessing for Germany, since they are missing a player to fully replace the aging Miroslav Klose. While Gomez is an exceptional goalscorer, Klose was that and much more.

    Klose was fantastic at setting up chances for the likes of Mueller and Podolski, and that is something Yesil has shown in leaps and bounds during this tournament. Therefore, Yesil seems to be the perfect fit for that position alongside Podolski and Mueller for future tournaments.

    Emre Can also looks likely for the Germany squad, probably alongside fellow Bayern star Bastian Schweinsteiger. Khedira has done well, as has Kroos in place of Bastian. But if Can grows at the pace he has shown lately, then there is every chance he will be able to move in front of both and alongside Schweinsteiger. But Can needs to work on his teamwork, since his ability to bulldoze midfielders will be gone as he moves up age groups and plays alongside bigger opponents.

    Even though most of the players present today won't be stars in the near future, Germany might still lose them to other national sides, a risk that has grown in greatness with each passing U-17 squad. Of the 11 starters named in the article, eight are eligible for another country—seven for Turkey, while goalkeeper Vlachodimas is half-Greek. Therefore if any of those players are not able to break into the national side by the age of 21 or 22, then they might opt to joining their country of decent. Germany would even lose the chance of them representing them later on in their careers.

    Overall, the attacking part of the squad looks tremendously talented and surely one or two of them will go on to be part of the senior German side by the time they reach 20. German fans might then have to wait for another batch of U-17 players to come up and bring in talented defenders.