Germany, the current world champion, is entering Euro 2016 on a cold streak. Unfortunately for its opposition, this usually the norm for Die Mannschaft before a tournament and it ends up making a deep run. However, after a long European season and some key injuries, can the Germans win back-to-back major titles?
Goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Bernd Leno (Bayer Leverkusen), Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona).
Defenders: Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich), Emre Can (Liverpool), Jonas Hector (Cologne), Benedikt Hoewedes (Schalke), Mats Hummels (Bayern Munich), Shkodran Mustafi (Valencia), Antonio Ruediger (Roma).
Midfielders: Julian Draxler (Wolfsburg), Sami Khedira (Juventus), Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich), Toni Kroos (Real Madrid), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal), Leroy Sane (Schalke), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Manchester United), Thomas Mueller (Bayern Munich), Julian Weigl (Borussia Dortmund).
Forwards: Mario Goetze (Bayern Munich), Mario Gomez (Besiktas), Andre Schuerrle (Wolfsburg), Lukas Podolski (Galatasaray).
Joachim Low has been Germany’s manager since the end of the 2006 World Cup. He has guided the national team to two finals, at Euro 2008 (lost 1-0 to Spain) and the 2014 World Cup, which the Germans won. Since Low took over Jurgen Klinsmann, the Nationalelf has not been knocked out before the semifinals of an international tournament.
4-2-3-1 – (GK) Neuer – (D) Hector, Hummels, Boateng, Howedes – (DM) Khedira, Kroos – (AM) Gotze, Ozil, Muller – (F) Gomez
MORE ON EURO 2016: Sportsnet has you covered with in-depth coverage of Euro 2016 in France, which runs from June 10 to July 10.
GROUP C SCHEDULE
June 12: vs. Ukraine in Lille
June 16: vs. Poland in Paris
June 21: vs. Northern Ireland in Paris
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
Germany’s qualifying campaign was tumultuous. It struggled against the Republic of Ireland, Poland and Scotland, but they still won Group D by one point over Poland to reach Euro 2016.
The Germans may be hampered by injuries, but Low has seemingly prioritized chemistry over the best 23 players, which is crucial. The likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lukas Podolski are not the players they once were, but they are experienced leaders who can galvanize the team. The Germans also possess a balanced attack. Mario Gomez is a goal-scoring poacher, Thomas Muller is a well-rounded forward, Mario Gotze usually shines for his country and Mesut Ozil’s vision is world class.
Once again, the defence is an area of concern. However, it’s worth noting that Germany won the 2014 World Cup by starting four centre backs. Benedikt Howedes, a central defender, along with Jonas Hector, a proper full back, will surely flank Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng. Unlike the World Cup, there will be one natural wide player on the back line, but with Hummels’ fitness issues, Low may have a selection headache.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Jonas Hector: The Koln defender was one of the most consistent players in the Bundesliga this past season. Hector was also previously linked to Liverpool, and for good reason. The 26-year-old is a solid left back who will be able to keep possession, push forward and track back, but he might have trouble shutting down faster wingers.
Mario Gotze: Gotze’s time at Bayern Munich has been less than ideal. Injuries and playing in multiple positions has not helped, but he is clearly a quality player who needs consistency. Now that Marco Reus is injured and out of Euro 2016, this is the Bayern forward’s chance to rekindle his lost form.
Mario Gomez: The former Bundesliga Golden Boot winner has been on a tear in Turkey with Besiktas. Gomez scored 26 goals in 33 appearances with the Turkish Super Lig champions, which was a major reason why the Black Eagles won the title. If the 30-year-old continues his strong form in France, Germany will likely leave the country as European champions.
How will the defence cope? Starting four centre backs worked out for Germany at the World Cup. However, Hummels’ fitness is unreliable, Boateng only played in four games after his adductor injury, Hector is relatively inexperienced and Howedes won’t be playing in his natural position. This is a tightly knit squad with a top coach, so it might not affect the world champions, but there are a few dangerous attacking sides at Euro 2016.
PROSPECTS IN FRANCE
Germany is an automatic semifinalist at any tournament these days, but anything less than an appearance in the final would be a disappointment. Based on how organized the team is, how close the players are and their big-game experience, the Germans can win Euro 2016.
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