Are These Germany Legends the Answer at Euro 2016?
A year and a half ago, Germany were convincing world champions, arguably the most balanced team in a World Cup full of flawed, unbalanced squads. With the world’s best goalkeeper in Manuel Neuer, an outstanding defensive backline and some of the best midfielders in the world, Germany’s route to the final was, apart from in the Round of 16 against Algeria, really, performed with consummate ease, while the showpiece final’s result was also never really in any real doubt.
Germany won the tournament, however, without an orthodox striker for vast swathes of their games – Joachim Löw opting to use Thomas Müller as a false nine – with the squad’s only recognised striker, Miroslav Klose, largely limited to token substitute appearances, designed largely sentimentally to help an aging striker over the World Cup record goalscorer line, which of course he eventually broke in the semi-final against Brazil. But, with Klose aging as he was, everyone appreciated 2014 was his last hurrah on the international stage and he has since retired, leaving Löw with a selection quandary up front which he, to this day, hasn’t solved. That is, of course, who he should take along to Euro 2016 as a striker.
There doesn’t appear to be any sort of proper strategy moving forward, as Löw continues to pick slightly more seasoned strikers or none at all rather than acknowledging some of the Bundesliga’s native attacking talent, many of whom would be good enough to play for the national team or at least act as a backup. In the most recent squad, Mario Gomez – who currently plays his club football in Turkey, hardly the sort of high-level league the defending World Champions should really be calling up their players from – was the marquee recall, with much fanfare about a player still revered by many and remembered fondly by others returning to the Germany squad after a few injury hit years in the international wilderness. Gomez will turn 31 during Euro 2016, an age which perhaps indicates that he is, for all intents and purposes, beyond his peak and thus not an option for the future and arguably not an option for now, either.
Lukas Podolski – often preferred wide for Germany but still an option up front – has been included when available in recent times, despite a rapid decline in the quality of his performances in the past few years. For his part, Podolski was always a player who did it better at international rather than club level – his Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010 campaigns both came off of the back of poor domestic seasons, and were highly impressive – but a month older still than Gomez, several years of lacklustre play behind him, and further question marks about the quality of the league in which he plays – an argument which of course extends to Gomez too – Podolski really ought to be seen as a thing of the past. But who is there for Löw to call upon?
Before we proceed, it stands to reasoning that Löw could just opt to play the likes of Thomas Müller or Mario Götze up top come June 2016 – even Andre Schürrle could be in the equation should he receive a January move and pick up form, with the former Chelsea man struggling to pick up playing time or form at Wolfsburg. Who, then, should Löw be casting his eye over, with six months left until he nominates his squad?
Former Freiburg and Mönchengladbach forward Max Kruse could be the best option for a call come summer 2016, as Kruse has shown consistently over the past three years that he is one of the Bundesliga’s go-to attacking players. While his goal return has never been astounding, Kruse’s all-round play has always facilitated his teams to score a lot more with him in the team, and last season he created marginally fewer chances than Kevin de Bruyne, a player seen by many as one of the best in Europe at present, with both far beyond the rest of the league in terms of chances created. It is little wonder that Germany’s second best club last season coveted his signature, and that his former club, Mönchengladbach, struggled to adjust to life without him. Despite a few injury troubles in recent months, Kruse has performed very well on the pitch, most recently bagging two goals and setting up a further one on his return from injury in Wolfsburg’s thrashing of Bremen at the weekend. It is surely just a question of fitness for a player who has been around the Germany set up in recent years, too, and was quite bafflingly omitted from Löw’s 2014 squad.
However, in Kevin Volland and Daniel Ginczek, Löw has further, younger options, should he choose to pick some more strikers. Volland has long played a key role at Hoffenheim despite his relative youth – the former Germany U21 captain is still just 23 but seems to have been around for years – while Ginczek has been in prolific form for Stuttgart in the past two years when fit, with his injury problems perhaps the only significant downside to him as a player. Ginczek is already set to miss the rest of 2015 and potentially some of 2016, but should he return, Löw will have a proven goalscorer available to him, which could be an excellent option from the bench, in a similar-but-slightly-less-sentimental version of the Klose role of 2014. Volland will almost certainly be a key performer for Germany in his later career and has been one of Hoffenheim’s better players this season – their awful form permitting, of course – and so should also be in with a shout of a call up.
So where does this leave Löw? In quite a good position, all things told. He has both a form player who is nearing his peak in Kruse, and younger players who could benefit from tournament experience and a bit of faith, in Volland and Ginczek. With established names such as Müller and Götze also able to play the role, and even whispers that Leroy Sane could take up an attacking role for Germany at some point soon, there really ought to be no need to rely on has-beens like Podolski and Gomez, both of whom having little to add to a talent-rich and relatively experienced squad, a squad in which the majority of players will already be World Champions.
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