World champions Germany kick off their Euro 2016 campaign with a tricky encounter against Ukraine on Sunday, and an injury to Mats Hummels has presented manager Joachim Low with a major dilemma in defence. 

 

Joachim Low will make a late decision regarding former Borussia Dortmund captain Mat Hummels’ inclusion in the starting XI for Sunday’s opener against Ukraine after the centre-back picked up a calf injury. Earlier this week, Low was given a selection headache in defence after Chelsea target Antonio Rudiger tore his ACL in training. He has since been replaced in the squad by Bayer Leverkusen youngster Jonathan Tah.

It is likely that Hummel’s injury will open up a spot for Schalke captain Benedikt Howedes in the centre of defence alongside Jerome Boateng. Low was reported by ESPN to have said that he may pick either Howedes or rumoured Barcelona target Shkodran Mustafi.

There are fewer selection issues further up the pitch, with Arsenal superstar Mesut Ozil expected to be the team’s primary playmaker. Julian Draxler and Thomas Muller will likely start alongside Ozil, with either Mario Gomez or Mario Gotze starting up front.

Shock defeats against Ireland, England and most recently Slovakia have raised serious doubts over Germany’s form going into this tournament. But manager Joachim Loew has said that he believes in his senior players like Manuel Neuer, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira to get the team ‘on course’, while insisting that they wanted to be crowed champions.

According to a report in Eurosport, while speaking on his side’s erratic form going into their first game of the tournament, he said, “I’ve been coach of Germany for a long time now and in spite of all of our friendly and qualifying games, it’s the tournaments which give me the greatest motivation.” He went on to say that they wished to prove themselves once again and ‘confirm’ their success. “Once you’ve had this feeling of glory, then it’s something which drives you on to feel it again,” claimed the 56-year-old.

Pressure on German defence

Ukraine vs Slovenia
Germany’s defensive woes may prove costly against a Ukrainian side that focus on fast counter-attacks. Their biggest attacking threats will be Liverpool target Andriy Yarmolenko and Leicester City target Yevhen Konoplyanka on the right and left wings respectively. Yarmolenko is Ukraine’s second all-time leading goalscorer and he will come up against German left-back Jonas Hector, who is also heavily linked with the Reds. The Ukrainian wingers are the key to their country’s hopes of advancing in this tournament and they will surely be motivated by the defensive instability of the world champions.

The pressure lies on the shoulders of the Germans, who will go into this tie looking to put their bad form behind them and set the tone for the rest of their tournament with a comprehensive victory. However, Ukraine will look to announce themselves as a force to be reckoned with and it’s certainly not going to be an easy night for Low’s men, who will be looking to win a second successive major international tournament.