Germany’s draw for the group stage could not be any tougher, with probably Group B providing a similar or slightly sterner test, with Spain and Netherlands drawn together there. Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo will obviously give the Germans their biggest test, and no doubt both will be slugging it out for first place in the group. 2010 quarter-finalists Ghana will hope to sneak into the runners-up spot, and they do have a decent squad with the likes of Asamoah Gyan and Sulley Muntari sure to worry the Joachim Löew.
Germany are blessed with a plethora of midfield talent, both established internationals as well as up-and-coming youngsters. Toni Kroos will partner Sami Khedira as Germany’s central midfield double pivot, with the vastly experienced Bastian Schweinsteiger providing quality competition. Thomas Müller, the 2010 Golden Boot winner, will surely take his place on Germany’s right flank, making his trademark diagonal darting runs beyond the opponent’s defence. It is the other side where competition will heat up, with Andre Schurrle and Julian Draxler pushing for a spot which should, at the moment, belong to Marco Reus.
Löew decision to leave out Kevin Volland means Miroslav Klose, 36 years young, will be Germany’s only specialist striker, which could point to Löew deciding to go with a false nine, most probably Mario Götze, in front of playmaker Mesut Özil. Germany will hope their probable quintet of starting midfielders can hold onto possession and provide for their wingers, who will probably be their biggest threats going forward.
As mentioned, Klose is Germany’s only striker, which could leave Löew’s options up front a little light. Lukas Podolski can play centre forward if need be, though since he isn’t even trusted in that position at Arsenal, Podolski would probably only see action on his usual left wing position. Löew’s plan B could also be to put Müller as the false nine, as he has played there for Pep Guardiola at FC Bayern this year, and Müller’s height, aerial prowess and savvy movement could be useful for Germany. However, the decision not to include Volland and not even consider Mario Gomez or Stefan Kiessling could be felt in the latter stages of the tournament.
In defence, some of the first-choice defenders will not give Germany much comfort, much less their back-ups. Jerome Boateng is prone to the odd mistake, which may leave a lot of responsibility on Per Mertesacker to sweep up. Captain Philipp Lahm will be ever reliable at right-back, but it is at left-back where Germany has problems. Kevin Grosskreutz would probably be the one filling in there, since the only other choice is his club-mate Erik Durm, who is severely inexperienced at this level. Injuries to just one or two of Germany’s defenders could leave them exposed at the back and significantly derail their chances.
Wild Card: Mario Götze
Götze had a mixed first season at Bayern, usually more a squad player rather than a first choice. His probable starting position as Germany’s false nine will put more responsibility on his shoulders, as his use of space and picking the right time to drop deep to collect the ball or drag defenders out of position will be vital for Germany’s main offensive threats on the wings to flourish. He might also have to drop into the No.10 position should Mesut Özil fail to sparkle.
Germany has enough in the tank to win their group, though they will need to steer clear of injuries to have a real go in the latter stages of the tournament. They should be able to prevail over Group H’s runners-up, whether it is Russia or the Korea Republic, where they might then meet France in the quarters. It will then be a toss up between the two nations.
A run to the quarters is the minimum, anything more should be considered a bonus.