A German Team Prepared to Succeed

Updated: 16 June 2014 13:35 IST

The belief is that Germany's young players, like Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira of the Spanish champion Real Madrid, are much more worldly than they were when they blossomed at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

A German Team Prepared to Succeed
© AP

Germany World Cup Sailing

© AP

A wise man never bets against Germany at the major tournaments, and the team that manager Joachim Low has been painstakingly building for six years is now expected to be ready for the European Championships.

The belief is that its young players, like Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira of the Spanish champion Real Madrid, are much more worldly than they were when they blossomed at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

And the experienced guys - like Philipp Lahm, Lukas Podolski and that inveterate striker of goals, Miroslav Klose - are tired of finishing second or third, and want a title to cap their careers.

Germany's problem in Low's time has been, in a word, Spain.

It was the Spanish who beat the Germans in the 2008 Euro final, and the Spanish who eliminated them in a World Cup semifinal two years later.

It took the world's best to expunge a Germany team that was growing. But while Carles Puyol and David Villa, both key elements of the Spanish team, are missing the tournament this year because of injury, the Germans seem to be getting stronger.

Germany has already shown its meticulous approach to planning for this Euro. While England and Italy have scheduled respectful visits to the former Nazi death camp at Auschwitz when they arrive in Poland, Germany sent a delegation in advance.

That way, Germany separates the emotion from the duty of winning.

That way, Podolski and Klose, both Polish by birth but German by upbringing and sporting preference, have paid their respects and can now concentrate on the tournament.

And while the rising wave of young German talent has offered challengers to Podolski and Klose, it will be a significant surprise if Low has selected these two proven game-winners just for the ride. Podolski, who intuitively raises his game while wearing the national jersey, looks for the runs that Klose unerringly makes into the goal mouth.

And Klose, who will turn 34 during the tournament, remains a lean, alert, predatory player, even if Bayern Munich let him go to Lazio last summer.

Germany has called on Klose to play 117 times, and he has answered with 63 goals, leaving him just a handful of strikes behind the greatest German scorer ever, Gerd Mueller.

Klose's mind, one of his biggest assets, is set on a winners' medal. And preying on the mind of Low has to be that Mario Gomez, Klose's replacement at Bayern, did the business he was asked to almost every time - until the Champions League final.

Although Munich had an overwhelming possession edge against Chelsea in that game, Gomez did what Klose simply does not do: he blew his chances on the big stage.

Many, many years ago, I remember asking Helmut Schoen, the trainer of West Germany's world and European champions in the 1970s, about coaches who persevere with aging players. "One does not cling to great players," Schoen responded. "They cling to you."

In other words, even during a rebuilding, the coach will select the proven game-winners when he can.

Health will determine the selection. This past season in Rome, Klose has had layoffs because of injury, but he has worked himself back toward peak fitness.

Germany does not have an easy Euro group in Ukraine. It opens in Kharkiv against Portugal, and then travels to Lviv to meet its neighbors the gifted Dutch. Finally, Germany has a contest, again in Lviv, against a Danish team that by then may have nothing to lose.

"I am not even thinking about the possibility of failure," said Low, who actually began the transition of the German squad when he was the assistant to Juergen Klinsmann at the 2006 World Cup.

He continued: "The team has made a lot of progress. That doesn't mean that we will win the title. We don't underestimate anyone."

But Munich beat Real Madrid over two legs in the Champions League, and Munich is the backbone of Low's team. Borussia Dortmund, which plays a much more direct and a quicker style than Bayern, beat the Muncheners comprehensively in the Bundesliga and in the German Cup.

And if the senior Bayern players are not up for the tournament, the younger elements of Dortmund - the quick-witted, quick-footed playmaker Mario Goetze, the reliable defender Mats Hummels and the emerging midfielder Ilkay Guendogan - will hungrily step into their shoes.

Competition for places makes Germany stronger. How strong, we are about to discover.



Topics : Football
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