Euro 2016 – Germany

A true powerhouse of European and World football, Germany will be one of the favourites to win the tournament in France this summer. Since WWII, the Germans (as West Germany from 1945 to 1990), they have only failed to qualify once (in 1968) for a major competition that they have entered.

Although the Germans have won the European Championships a total of three times, their last triumph was in England in 1996 and will be hoping do better this time around after getting knocked out at the semi-final stage four and eight years ago.

Joachim Löw has done an excellent job since taking over from Jürgen Klinsmann in 2006 and will be eager to add the European Cup to the World Cup that his team won in Brazil. It would take a brave man to be against the Germans who seem to have a knack of hitting form at the right time when it comes to tournament football, not to mention their penalty shoot-out expertise.

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World Cup holders Germany qualified for the finals with relative ease, how far can they go in Euro 2016?

I pulled Germany in my work sweepstake, so all the way I hope!

The Germans are one of four sides that you really expect to challenge for the trophy at the Euros, alongside France, Spain and Belgium. I actually think Germany will go all the way and win the tournament. If you look at their squad, it’s filled with incredibly talented players. The depth of their squad is scary.

In goal, they’ve got the best goalkeeper in the world in Manuel Neuer, with the likes of Bernd Leno and Marc-André ter Stegen warming the bench – the latter two would get into most teams in the world which shows how much depth the squad has got.

Who were the stand-out players during the qualifying process?

Germany had a pretty solid qualifying campaign, although they did lose two games against Poland and the Republic of Ireland which was surprising.

Jérôme Boateng and Thomas Müller were the mainstays of the side during qualifying and will continue to play an important role heading into the finals. The latter scored nine goals and grabbed two assists in qualifying, making him their highest goal scorer.

It’s also hard to underestimate Toni Kroos and the affect he has on this Germany side. He completed 1007 passes in qualifying, 95% of the total he attempted, which was the highest of any player for any country.

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How has the country developed since that World Cup win two years ago?

I think they have continued their development and have progressed as a team. Joachim Löw has continued to develop young German talent and it’s no surprise that some of the most talented youngsters in World football are German.

Youngsters Julian Weigl, Julian Brandt and Joshua Kimmich have made the preliminary squad despite not having made an appearance for the senior squad – do you think they’ll make the plane to Germany?

Out of the three, I think Julian Brandt has the best chance. All three have had tremendous seasons in the Bundesliga, but looking at the squad on a whole, the wing is arguably one of the weaker areas of the squad so perhaps Brandt has a chance.

In central midfield, I can’t see Löw dropping Kroos, Sami Khedira, Mesut Özil or Bastian Schweinsteiger, so it will be one of the youngsters to go. That said,  Schweinsteiger hasn’t played for Manchester United for quite some time, so it will be interesting to see if he can prove his fitness or not before the 31st of May deadline.

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Continuing with the youth theme, are there any potential star players coming through that will become the mainstays of future national teams?

There really are too many to name!

In goal, the likes of Bernd Leno, Marc-André ter Stegen, Timo Horn and Liverpool target Loris Karius are all highly talented goalkeepers.

In defence, Jonathan Tah of Bayer Leverkusen, Dortmund’s Matthias Ginter and Hoffenheim’s Niklas Süle are all potential stars in the making.

In midfield, the Germans are overrun with talented youngsters. Liverpool’s Emre Can is a fantastic prospect and is joined by Julian Weigl, Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka and many more. The future is certainly bright post-Kroos, Khedira and Schweinsteiger.

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On the wing, Julian Brandt and Leroy Sané are among a long list of talents who have been making their name in the Bundesliga this year. The latter is a reported £40 million target for both Manchester clubs this summer, so it will be interesting to watch how these stories develop in throughout the summer.

In attack, Timo Werner looks promising, as does Donis Avdijaj who is currently on loan in Austria with Sturm Graz.

Germany have been drawn in Group C alongside Poland, Ukraine and Northern Ireland. Who will pose the biggest threat?

As long as they have Robert Lewandowski up front, Poland will always prove a threat but I’d still expect Germany to beat them.

In truth, I would expect Germany to beat all three sides in their group. Northern Ireland, sadly, I think won’t have enough quality to match the Germans and will look to contain them where possible.

The Ukrainian side is certainly a talented side, with the likes of Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka proving dangerous. Whilst I still think the Germans will win, perhaps the Ukraine will prove their biggest threat man for man.

What kind of tactics do you expect them to employ during the finals?

Joachim Löw seems to rotate his systems a lot, so it’s hard to pinpoint how he will line up his side in the Euros.

Looking at the Italy game back in March, he lined his side up in a 5-2-3 formation. Attacking wing backs (Jonas Hector & Sebastian Rudy) provided the width for the side, with three central defenders providing a defensive base.

In central midfield, Toni Kroos and Mesut Özil played as a pair, with the former acting as a deep-lying playmaker and the latter a more advanced option.

In attack, a front three of Julian Draxler, Mario Götze and Thomas Müller provided an interchanging outlet. A lack of out and out forward means that the front three will drop deep into space to receive the ball.

When Mario Gómez plays though, the system is a whole different ball game – as seen in the friendly loss against England. Playing in a 4-2-3-1 formation, the German side relied more on Toni Kroos to dictate the game and break the lines, as Spielverlagerung explained “as the game developed, Löw’s side started to look more towards Kroos’ influence to help them progress the ball.”

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How are the team preparing for the Finals? Are there any challenging friendlies, training camps, etc?

They kicked off preparations in March with a loss to England and a 4-1 win over Italy. Germany have two more friendlies to play before their opening Euro 2016 match against the Ukraine. They host Slovakia next week and Hungary on the 4th of June.

Finally, what is your prediction in a penalty shoot-out against England? A German win of course?

Of course – we all know how that one would turn out!

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