Euro 2012 preview: Germany
Imagine the old-fashioned German efficiency married to the attacking brio of, say, Holland. No wonder, says Ulrich Hesse, the German fans are loving this team...
Germany 2012: Lean, fit, efficient and extremely exciting
In the past two years, Germany have beaten England, Argentina, Uruguay (twice), Brazil and then, to the countryÃ¢ÂÂs delight, old rivals Holland. In five of those six games they scored three goals or more and in each they were clearly the better side, sometimes by a considerable margin.
But the results are not the main reason Germans love this team more than any other in recent memory Ã¢ÂÂ more than the sides of 1996 and, yes, even 1990. The reason for the current teamÃ¢ÂÂs immense popularity is that its attacking football is so pleasing to watch, often reminiscent of the exuberant Borussia Dortmund team that surprisingly ran away with the Bundesliga title last year.
The central elements are the same: youthful enthusiasm combined with tactical nous, a 4-2-3-1 formation in which the players push far upfield and play the pressing game, constant movement and quick passing in midfield. ItÃ¢ÂÂs not unlike the model most teams aspire to these days: Barcelona and Spain.
The model is also the nemesis: Germany lost to Spain in both the Euro 2008 Final and the 2010 World Cup semi-final, albeit narrowly. Yet there are many experts who argue that Spain are no longer as hungry as they used to be, and that Joachim LowÃ¢ÂÂs team can be third time lucky. Not even the difficult draw could dampen this widespread optimism. But then, in late February, Germany unexpectedly lost at home to France, which had the fans waking up to the fact that Spain are not the only danger.
"Quite fun, this football lark"
Lesson from qualifying
Perfection is possible. Even the Germans, notoriously commanding during such campaigns, had never won 10 out of 10 qualifying games before. This amazing record proves that the team is astonishingly consistent, given its relatively young age, and able to focus on a task at hand.
It also speaks of burning ambition Ã¢ÂÂ personified by coach Low, who, as soon as qualification was in the bag, declared he was aiming for a perfect record. The fact that his players then pulled it off also shows that they can translate their new, un-German qualities Ã¢ÂÂ style and flair Ã¢ÂÂ into the very German one of getting results. In brief, itÃ¢ÂÂs frightening.
GermanyÃ¢ÂÂs offensive depth is so impressive that only Real MadridÃ¢ÂÂs gifted playmaker Mesut ÃÂzil is an automatic starter in the attacking department. Centre-forward Mario Gomez, for example, may be the most successful goalscorer of the current crop, but Low is also very fond of Miroslav Klose, whoÃ¢ÂÂs enjoying an Indian summer with Lazio.
There are even more options for the wide positions, so neither the silky-skilled Mario Gotze nor the dynamic Marco Reus should be more than subs. Toni Kroos, BayernÃ¢ÂÂs most improved player of the season, would love to play in ÃÂzilÃ¢ÂÂs central position, but would settle for deposing Sami Khedira in front of the back four. The Germans have so much flair and creativity, they may very well be using two trained trequartistas as holding midfielders.
Once feared the world over for their ruthless, watertight and efficient defences, the Germans are now almost forced to play attacking football simply to keep the ball away from their own penalty area. Despite the occasional blunder this year with the ball at his feet, Manuel Neuer is a world-class goalkeeper, and his Bayern team-mate Philipp Lahm is consistently outstanding Ã¢ÂÂ but the other three positions at the back are long-standing causes for concern.
No matter on which wing Lahm is used, there is no reliable full-back for the other flank. The most experienced centre-back, ArsenalÃ¢ÂÂs Per Mertesacker, comes off a difficult season and a long injury lay-off; all of his potential partners are doing well for their clubs but have repeatedly failed to bring their domestic form to the international game.
Did you know...?
The German players are allowed to smoke. During Euro 2008, UEFA banned Low from the touchline for GermanyÃ¢ÂÂs game against Portugal so he watched it from a VIP lounge Ã¢ÂÂ where TV cameras caught him lighting up. He came under criticism from anti-smoking groups yet saw no reason to quit.
Ã¢ÂÂIÃ¢ÂÂm not a shining example,Ã¢ÂÂ he admitted recently, Ã¢ÂÂbut IÃ¢ÂÂve never smoked in the presence of the players. As far as I know, none of them smoke, but I wouldnÃ¢ÂÂt forbid itÃ¢ÂÂ¦ except at the table or during a team meeting, of course.Ã¢ÂÂ
Christoph Biermann, editor-in-chief of 11 Freunde and winner of GermanyÃ¢ÂÂs Football Book of the Year award in 2010
Ã¢ÂÂIn the past six years, the team has stunned and fascinated the German public by playing both beautiful and successful football Ã¢ÂÂ but they havenÃ¢ÂÂt taken the last step, namely winning a title. ItÃ¢ÂÂs about time. The men in charge of the team actually support this view Ã¢ÂÂ nobody is attempting to distort things and give Germany the role of an underdog. After all, talented players like Mario Gotze and Marco Reus have been added since the 2010 World Cup, which has further increased the teamÃ¢ÂÂs options.Ã¢ÂÂ
Better and hungrier than in 2010. Winners.
Ozil: "I fly by Cabaye"
Historically known for their industrious team ethic, the current German side is also filled with flair and creativity Ã¢ÂÂ and no-one has more than ÃÂzil. Unstoppable during the qualifying campaign, notching five goals and assisting seven, ÃÂzilÃ¢ÂÂs vision and clever passing are a match for the creative elite of world football.
With a sophisticated look from the dugout, Low has continued the philosophical ways started by Jurgen Klinsmann, leaving out Michael Ballack to concentrate on the nationÃ¢ÂÂs youth and playing ultimate Ã¢ÂÂteam footballÃ¢ÂÂ. Germany eased through the qualifying rounds with a 100% record, only raising the stock of the 52-year-old coach.
How they play
With 34 goals bagged in qualifying, accompanied by an attacking 4-2-3-1 formation, Germany will be a great goal threat this summer. Although not fully settled at the back, they have a powerful and relentless midfield that contains more than enough creativity to support the striker when it comes to scoring. Expect a team performance in every outing at the Euros.
1960 DNE (Did not enter)
1964 DNQ (Did not qualify)
1984 First round
2000 First round
2004 First round
June 9, Portugal (Lviv, 7.45pm)
June 13, Holland (Kharkiv, 7.45pm)
June 17, Denmark (Lviv, 7.45pm)
Germany are 3/1 to win Euro 2012 and 50/1 to win (in 90 minutes) all six games on the way to the title.
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FOURFOURTWO'S EURO 2012 PREVIEWS
Grp A: Poland Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Russia Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Greece Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Czech Republic
Grp B: Netherlands Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Germany Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Portugal Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Denmark
Grp C: Spain Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Italy Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Croatia Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Republic of Ireland
Grp D: Ukraine Ã¢ÂÂ¢ England Ã¢ÂÂ¢ France Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Sweden
...and there's more: try Back of the Net's satirical previews