Attacking power should mask injuries
16 June ~ Four years ago the controversial German tabloid BZ ran a full front-page picture of the World Cup trophy with the headline Hands off! It belongs to us. It was typically bullish, and represented a genuine belief around the country that, in South Africa, Germany would end their 20 years of disappointment and of (relative) allure. Now the same paper has run with a picture of the cup in the grasping hands of the victorious Spanish players and a play on the old headline: Hands off! This time it really belongs to us.
But despite the bluster, this absolute certainty is not as visible throughout the land. There is a latent feeling that actually winning the World Cup (and anything else would be considered a failure this time) may be beyond a team decimated by injuries and under a coach who is no longer absolutely trusted. Joachim Löw's notions about winning the game by playing the right way are being doubted and he is accused of lacking the necessary pragmatism.
There are some big question marks over the squad, for whom Marco Reus's injury was a hammer blow. Miroslav Klose is the most successful German striker of all time but he's now 36. Sami Khedira has barely played all year, yet is integral to Löw's plans, as are Bastian Schweinsteiger and Manuel Neuer, both of whom have been striving to prove their fitness. The flaky Jérôme Boateng will probably be at right-back with Benedikt Höwedes opposite on the left. Mats Hummels and Per Mertesacker are regulars together in the middle but neither are strangers to lapses of concentration.
So they will just have to outscore the opposition. After all, who needs classical centre-forwards when one has a swathe of attacking midfielders that is the most gifted and potentially devastating in world football? Germany do still have a midfield containing Toni Kroos, Mesut Özil and Philipp Lahm (should he be shoehorned in there – as yet he still claims he has no idea) while Mario Götze, Julian Draxler and André Schurrle are warming the bench. Between them Lukas Podolski and Thomas Müller have scored more goals in the previous two World Cups than England have in total.
But this all just seems so, well, un-German. The tabloids will be very quick to jump on any perceived fragility this time, they will hammer Löw and his squad if they fail to win. Whereas the last three tournaments have been seen as stepping stones, this is the one that they have been building up to. This time, failure is inconceivable. Jacob Sweetman www.nodicemagazine.com