It’s time for German national team trainer Joachim Löw to make some tough decisions as he chooses which three men to cut from his squad.
As the likes of Marco Reus, Mario Götze, and Mesut Özil pack their bags and get ready for the long flight to Brazil, the competition grows fiercer for the final seats on Germany’s plane to the World Cup. Twenty-six men vie for 23 spots, and Joachim Löw must make his final selection by June 2. While Germany go into this tournament among the favorites, a slew of injuries to key personnel such as Philipp Lahm and Manuel Neuer has dampened spirits and has given the Bundestrainer increased selection headaches. There are no easy answers here, but three of the following seven players must go. Who will it be, and what will their exclusion mean for Germany’s hopes for a fourth World Cup victory?
Christopher Kramer (Borussia Mönchengladbach)
While Gladbach’s central midfielder wasn’t included in the provisional squad originally, he is the likeliest to make the final cut. Löw lavished praise on the 23-year-old on Monday for being good on the ball, strong defensively, and resilient. If that alone weren’t enough to secure his place, Kramer benefits from injuries to other personnel in central midfield; with Schweinsteiger, Lahm, and Khedira fighting against time for fitness, and both Bender twins out to injury, Kramer is in the right position at the right time. Luck, and his consistent performances for Gladbach this season, should see him make the trip to Brazil.
Chance: Brazil bound
Kevin Großkreutz (Borussia Dortmund)
Given his work ethic, passion, and versatility, Kevin Großkreutz has become a fan favorite and seems a solid candidate for the German bench, able to provide cover and support all over the pitch. Coming off a solid season for Dortmund, where he first deputized for the injured Lukasz Piszczek at right-back before sliding back onto the right wing, Großkreutz can also play in defense or in midfield on the left. Should Löw play Philipp Lahm in midfield—or if the captain fails to recover from injury in time—Großkreutz could have his chance. He is, however, less technically gifted than some of his peers, and would travel to Brazil as a substitute rather than a starter.
Chance: Brazil bound
Julian Draxler (Schalke 04)
Draxler is considered to be one of Germany’s biggest young talents, but he goes into the summer on the back of a subpar season. He scored only two goals in the league all year—in comparison to 10 the previous season—and has looked much less of a marauding force in midfield for Schalke. While he certainly has a bright future, Draxler could be a casualty of Germany’s abundance of wealth in attacking midfield. With Reus, Müller, Schürrle, Götze, and Podolski all vying for a spot in midfield, particularly on the left, Draxler would have a hard time finding playing time even if he were included, and may be deemed surplus to Löw’s requirements as the trainer looks to shore up more vulnerable areas.
Erik Durm (Borussia Dortmund)
The 22-year-old left-back has enjoyed a dream debut season, making Marcel Schmelzer’s position his own for Borussia Dortmund, taking on the likes of Gareth Bale in the Champions League, and finally being called up for international duty. While he is one of the most likely to be cut, Durm would offer defensive solidity and offensive flair. For BVB, he has combined well with Marco Reus all season long down the left flank, and boasts a fierce shot along with the vision for fast, counterattacking football. That Großkreutz can also play left-back, however, is bad news for his younger teammate, and Löw may feel it safer to go with a more experienced option. This could be one World Cup too early for Durm.
Kevin Volland (Hoffenheim)
What Löw decides to do with Hoffenheim’s versatile striker will reveal how he plans to attack in Brazil. With 36-year-old Miroslav Klose being the only true striker in the squad, the question has been whether Löw will deploy Volland as a substitute striker, or will prefer one of his midfield talents as a false nine. While he can lead the attack, Volland spent most of last season on the right wing for his club, where he scored 11 goals and set up nine more. As such, Klose remains the best option as an out-and-out striker for Germany, particularly against bigger, more physical sides, and Löw will probably experiment with the false nine, with Müller, Reus, and Götze all capable of playing that role. Volland, then, would slip to third place as an attacking option, and Löw may choose to dispense with his services. Still, given Klose’s injury-riddled season and Germany’s lackluster performances with a false nine, it would be dangerous to leave Volland at home entirely.
Matthias Ginter (SC Freiburg) and Shkodran Mustafi (Sampdoria)
With four established central defenders in the squad already, one of these two young center-backs will certainly be sent home, if not both. What would work in their favor is if Löw decided to use Lahm in midfield and Benedikt Höwedes as a full-back, leaving only Hummels, Mertesacker, and Boateng in contention for the central spots. The trainer may then feel that additional cover is needed, but it is difficult to imagine both of them making the plane.
Chance: Likely to stay home