2014 FIFA World Cup: Germany, A Powerful Midfield Engine

Joachim Low
Joachim Low
Washington DC USA Germany head coach Joachim Low looks towards the field during the first half against USA at RFK Stadium Paul Frederiksen USA TODAY Sports

The World Cup is a time for international managers to take all the lessons they have learned over three years of qualifying and pit their team against the rest of the globe. Such is the quality on display in the World Cup that only the best of the best can make the finals and compete for the ultimate prize in football.

A manager’s biggest decision prior to the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals is in selecting a final, 23-man roster. Which three goalkeepers do you take to mind the net? Which forwards will score the most goals? What combination of defenders will keep the backline solid? Finally, what core of midfielders can yield the best results?

For German manager Joachim Löw, that midfield puzzle is the toughest one to solve. Simply put, the German national team has three starting midfielders for every one that another nation possesses. Such is the abundance of Germany’s midfield product that picking the final eight or nine midfielders will be a tough task for Löw – choosing the starters, even more so.

If Germany goes into the World Cup midfield-heavy, it could potentially see a roster with 10 midfielders in varying positions, whether they be defensive holding players or wide, attacking ones.

The obvious names include Arsenal’s Mesut Özil as well as Bayern Munich’s duo of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mario Götze. These three players are top midfield talents and will surely make the final roster. Schweinsteiger is a central midfielder who possesses an unmatched level of intercepting skill and mobility; Özil can create a goal out of nothing with a sublime through ball pass; Götze can score magnificent goals and is a valuable link-up option in the team.

Yet, the quality of Germany’s midfield options doesn’t stop there. Munich’s Tommy Müller and Toni Kroos are also worth mentioning; the two have played in over 40 games each with the national team and are goalscoring and creative threats as well. Then there’s Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus, who scores often for the national team and for his club, as well as Sven Bender and his twin brother, Lars Bender, central midfielders who are adaptable and are sound in their positioning.

Add to the mix Real Madrid’s Sami Khedira, a defensive midfielder of considerable talent, as well as Dortmund’s defensive midfield engine, İlkay Gündoğan, and it’s beginning to look like quite a selection headache for poor Joachim Löw.

Of course, Chelsea’s André Schürrle, Schalke’s Julian Draxler and Arsenal’s Lukas Podolski (a player who plays with thrice the skill and potency for the national team), and you have a conundrum unprecedented in the modern game.

Now, arguably, some of these players, like Podolski, Müller, Schürrle and Reus, could be added into the national team as forwards. To be fair, there are no stipulations as to how many players of each position must be taken, apart from a three-goalkeeper rule. Luckily, in this regard, Germany’s forward options are thin, with Miroslav Klose and Mario Gómez the only players worth noting.

This means Germany will head into the World Cup with more wingers, attacking midfielders, and pseudo-forwards than many other sides, most closely resembling the Spanish team. It seems to be a trend in football, where elite clubs are opting to play in formations that utilize just the one target forward up top. Other players aim for these types in the box. Their sole focus is tapping in goals. The rest of the play, build up and movement lies on the shoulders (well, feet) of the midfield.

Luckily, Germany has plenty of midfielders to burden that responsibility. The obvious starting choice is a five-player combination of Özil, Schweinsteiger, Götze, Khedira and Müller, but with Kroos, Podolski, Reus, and Bender in the waiting, there are plenty of replacements available to cover for injury or poor form.

Industrious to the end, Germany is a team that steamrolls its opponents with accurate passing, constant movement and a high energy approach. With a midfield like this, the team can achieve that goal in spades.

Even scarier is the fact that most of these players are in the age range of 21-26, in the prime of their careers, starting for their clubs, making their names heard loud and clear in European competitions and scoring or assisting goals. There is not a player in the German midfield who enters the roster on a name alone.

Such is the quality of the German midfield engine. It will be one of the highlights of the World Cup and in a tough Group G, facing off against Ghana, Portugal and the United States, should provide for some high-quality football, too.

Can Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley cope with such a strong midfield five? The US can take solace in the fact that no European side has won a World Cup in South American soil – maybe, just maybe, giants will topple. It all starts, and ends, in the middle of the park.

author avatar
Armen Bedakian
Armen Bedakian is a soccer writer covering every aspect of the game in Major League Soccer and around the world. I love a crunching slide tackle, but can't stand a bad offside call. Follow me on Twitter - @ArmenBedakian