After a miserable 2018 World Cup campaign, Germany head into Euro 2020 looking to re-establish themselves as tournament powerhouses.
Die Mannschaft arrived in Russia as defending world champions and semi-finalists in the last seven major tournaments, but, despite a qualifying campaign that saw them win all 10 of their games with just four goals conceded, were dumped out with only a solitary victory.
But since then, Joachim Low, who will stand down after the Euros, has been overhauling his playing squad, with the likes of Jerome Boateng, Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels being jettisoned. Younger models, such as Serge Gnabry, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, have taken more prominent roles in Germany’s squad alongside remaining veterans Toni Kroos, Ilkay Gundogan and Manuel Neuer, while Florian Neuhaus and Nadiem Amiri make up a pack of players looking to force their way into this summer’s plans.
The best players Germany are bringing to Euro 2020:
Remember in 2018 when everybody accused Neuer of being a busted flush of a goalkeeper? Well, since then the 34-year-old has fully recovered his fitness and re-established himself as one of the best goalkeepers on the planet both with the ball at his feet and at keeping it out of the net. Neuer has kept 23 clean sheets in the Bundesliga alone since the start of last season, while he’s bailed his side out on numerous occasions as Bayern mopped up every title available to them last season. As one of the few players in this squad with major tournament-winning experience at international level, too, he’ll play a key part for Low this summer.
Once the heir to Philipp Lahm at full-back, Joshua Kimmich has fully completed the transition to central midfield and is now arguably the best No.6 on the planet. Still bringing plenty of bite to his defensive duties, Kimmich also exudes pure class with the ball, splitting defences open and keeping Bayern ticking with precision passing and ice-cold composure. The 26-year-old already has 14 assists from 31 games across Bundesliga and Champions League play this season, while his tendency to pull out the odd screamer from distance makes him a wildcard option to go and be the difference-maker for Germany.
Serge Gnabry has been doing a wonderful job of putting his failed Arsenal spell in the rearview mirror and honestly, it’s been a joy to watch him do it. Far more than a simple speed merchant, Gnabry can turn defenders inside-out with dynamic dribbling, while his direct nature means he will always look to get himself in front of goal. With 15 goals in 20 caps, Gnabry’s record for Germany has been astounding so far — his ability to interchange between wide and central positions will make him incredibly unpredictable for the likes of France and Portugal in the group stages.
Which Timo Werner will turn up to the European Championships is one of the biggest questions Germany face heading into this summer. After scoring 95 goals in 159 appearances for RB Leipzig, his move to Chelsea last summer felt like the natural progression for his career but, thus far, it hasn’t worked out in London with the 24-year-old managing just 11 goals in 37 games across all competitions, and only six of those strikes have come in the Premier League. On the face of it, his record for Germany looks great with 15 goals in 35 caps. However, he couldn’t get off the mark at Russia 2018 and he’ll want to put that major tournament record right this summer to silence his critics. Whether or not Werner can do that might well be key to Germany’s chances of making a deep run at this tournament.
The head coach: Joachim Low
Despite coming under regular pressure, Low has stood the test of time in his role as Germany manager, leading Die Mannschaft to two European Championship semi-finals, a runner-up performance in the 2008 Euros, two World Cup semi-finals and that famous, glorious 2014 campaign.
But this will be Low’s last tournament as Germany boss, with the 61-year-old recently announcing his decision to step down this summer.
“I take this step very consciously, full of pride and enormous gratitude, but at the same time continue to be very motivated when it comes to the upcoming European Championship tournament,” Low said. “Proud because it is something very special and an honour for me to be involved in my country and because I have been able to work with the best footballers in the country for almost 17 years and support them in their development.
“I have great triumphs with them and painful defeats, but above all many wonderful and magical moments – not just winning the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. I am and will remain grateful to the DFB, which has always provided me and the team with an ideal working environment.”
Prior to taking the reins, Low spent time as Jurgen Klinsmann’s assistant and oversaw Germany’s transition into a much more attractive, attacking unit. He expects every player in his squad to be proficient with the ball at their feet, able to play in tight spaces and maintain dominance in possession. Few players reflect this better than long-time goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, a player Low has often insisted is capable of playing outfield.
Even with a Germany side in transition relative to their last major tournament appearance, the approach won’t change here. Germany will be expected to dominate the ball, get forward quickly and use the pace of Gnabry, Werner and Sane to stretch the opposition and make it impossible to defend against them.
Though he has experimented with a back-five, Low has mostly stuck with a 4-3-3 formation. The most likely centre-back partnership among Low’s current options would be Antonio Rudiger and Niklas Sule. There is, however, fierce competition at full-back, with the likes of Lukas Klostermann, Marcel Halstenberg, Philipp Max, Mathias Ginter and Robin Goesens all battling for two spots.
Then there are the goalkeepers. While England, the Netherlands, Spain and Co struggle to settle on just one reliable option, Germany have a plethora of incredible shot-stoppers to choose from. Manuel Neuer is the obvious No.1 but behind him, Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Arsenal’s Bernd Leno provide incredible depth. Even fourth-choice Kevin Trapp would stand a good chance of starting for at least half of the nations competing in this summer’s tournament. In short, regardless of who Low picks in defence, scoring goals against Germany could prove a very difficult task.
Further forward, Germany qualified for the Euros with a record of seven wins and one defeat in eight games, scoring a massive 30 goals along the way, eight of which belonged to Gnabry. Alongside Werner and Bayern Munich teammate Leroy Sane, Gnabry completes a dynamic German front-three with eye-watering pace and enough tactical flexibility to make them incredibly unpredictable and hard to contain. Behind them, the likes of Gundogan and Leon Goretzka have been in supreme goalscoring and creative form at club level and with the elite protection and passing of Joshua Kimmich in the No.6 role, Low could form a genuinely world-class, forward-thinking midfield. Toni Kroos, of course, is still a regular in the German starting XI, while there is the added option of Marco Reus operating behind the forward line.
The form guide
Euro 2020 qualifying: WWWWLWWWWW
As mentioned, Germany were in ruthless attack during qualifying for this tournament and that potent forward line helped inspire them to qualification with seven wins and just one defeat — 4-2 against the Netherlands — in eight games. That was enough to top the group with 21 points, two ahead of the Dutch and eight clear of Northern Ireland.
Recent fixtures: LWWLWDWDDWW
Germany were humiliated in their last match, losing 2-1 to North Macedonia in their third World Cup qualifier in March. However, it also represents just their second defeat since that aforementioned loss to the Netherlands back in September 2019, a run spanning 13 games across all competitions and friendlies.
Germany Euro 2020 odds: Can they even make it out of their group?
As it stands, Germany sit behind England, Belgium and France as fourth-favourites at 7/1 (Sky Bet) to win their fourth European Championship title.
But one of the most obvious hurdles in Germany’s quest for success this summer is the ridiculously tough group they’ve been drawn into. Alongside Die Mannschaft in Group F are world champions France, European Championships and Uefa Nations League winners Portugal, and a dangerous Hungary side which boasts the likes of RB Leipzig trio Peter Gulacsi, Dominik Szoboszlai and Willi Orban.
As it stands, Germany are favourites to go through to the knockout rounds, but as Low will have learned from 2018, that tag can often be a burden.
Odds to advance from Group F with Sky Bet…
18+ only. All odds via Sky Bet and correct as of 13:30 on 28/04/2021. T&Cs apply.
- France – 1/9
- Germany – 1/12
- Portugal – 1/5
- Hungary – 9/2
Could Low recall the old guard?
More recently, Low has hinted that the likes of Muller, Boateng and Hummels could be brought back into the fold thanks to their impressive club form over the past year.
“A topic that is regularly talked about, and rightly so, is that of Müller, Boateng and Hummels,” he said.
“What I can say about that is that I’m a coach who thinks in two-year cycles. I think after 2018 and after the Nations League campaign, it was necessary to have a change and to begin the process of rebuilding. When you do that, you should never interrupt it and go in the opposite direction.
“However, through the pandemic over the last year, we’ve had almost a year stolen from us. So, you can start to think about interrupting a phase of rebuilding, and doing so if it’s absolutely necessary, and if me and my coaching staff feel we need an extra percentage point here or there, or someone else to give a new energy or leadership in sporting terms.”
Muller has been one of the key attacking pieces for Hansi Flick’s Bayern, scoring 26 goals and providing a whopping 42 assists — including 20 during the 2019/20 Bundesliga campaign — as his side mopped up six trophies: Bundesliga, Champions League, DFB-Pokal, Club World Cup, European Super Cup and German Super Cup.
Boateng, meanwhile, has won his place back in Flick’s side, playing 50 league games since the start of last season and forming a formidable partnership with Sule which could easily be translated to international level.
And while Borussia Dortmund have been a defensive mess at times this season, Hummels has been doing his level best to guide a very youthful starting XI. Regardless, he still maintains his famously elegant passing, is able to break lines along the floor or spray long diagonals to get his side into space, while his aerial prowess makes him great at set-pieces at both ends of the pitch.
“In the end we need to make a decision in May,” Low continued. “We’ll go over and analyse everything that’s happened in the last two years. We won’t rule anything out, I can assure you of that.
“The only thing that matters is how can the team have a good tournament? What does the team need? What kind of players? What do we need in the individual positions in order to be as successful as possible? I’m the first person to discuss and think about those things, and to then make the decisions that are necessary.
“I don’t want to interrupt the rebuilding process. We’ll need to analyse what we need for the tournament. If [Müller, Boateng or Hummels] were to be considered then they’d be integrated quickly. It wouldn’t be a problem. They know exactly how things work with the national team.”
So, who could miss out for Germany if this trio of experienced campaigners were once again trusted at a major international tournament?
If either one of Boateng or Hummels (or both) can keep up their strong form and force Low’s hand, Antonio Rudiger might end up being a high-profile casualty for this summer’s competition. The 28-year-old has won his place back in the Chelsea starting XI since compatriot Thomas Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard, but has never been convincing during his time at Stamford Bridge. Looking back, Rudiger was left out of Germany’s key clash against South Korea at the 2018 World Cup, where Die Mannschaft lost 2-0 and crashed out of the tournament. Could that be an indication of where Low places him in the centre-back depth chart?
Like Werner, Kai Havertz’s move to Chelsea at the start of the season felt like perfect timing, the next step in the career of Germany’s new golden boy. However, things have been even worse for Havertz at Stamford Bridge than his compatriot, with the 21-year-old managing just two goals and five assists across Premier League and Champions League play so far. Of course, his time at Leverkusen showed us all what this talented youngster is really capable of, while his ability to play behind the striker, out wide and through the middle as a false 9 makes him a valuable squad member at an international tournament. However, it’s becoming increasingly harder to ignore Muller, and Havertz feels like the most logical option to leave out, should the Bayern veteran force his way back into the reckoning.