Euro 2020 preview, Group F – Germany: Thomas Fenton on an erratic Die Mannschaft
Our Matchday Squad will cover every nation at the Euros
For Euro 2020, we’ve assembled 24 expert journalists to give you the latest insight and tips on every team throughout the tournament.
Here, journalist Thomas Fenton gives us his take on Germany…
Give us an overview of your team’s chances at Euro 2020
In spite of some shaky recent form, Germany will enter Euro 2020 as one of the pre-tournament favourites. The squad is stacked with talented match winners, as well as seasoned veterans who have been there and done it before.
Their most recent results, in both the Nations League and the qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup, would indicate that Germany are heading for a disastrous Euros campaign. However, the history books show us that Die Mannschaft tend to peak at just the right time when it comes to tournament football.
Back in 2001, they were thrashed 5-1 at home by England in a qualifier for the 2002 World Cup – only to then reach the final in Japan the following year. In November 2020, Germany suffered a similarly humiliating defeat, losing 6-0 to Spain. The lesson is simple: never discount Germany, even when all hope seems lost.
With the likes of Joshua Kimmich, Leroy Sane and Serge Gnabry on board, winning Euro 2020 is still very much possible. Add to that the return of proven World Cup winners like Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels (who were previously ostracised from the squad) and Germany are still as formidable as they come.
What would you say are your team’s major strengths?
If Germany are to go all the way this year it will surely have a lot to do with the abundance of talent that Joachim Low has at his disposal in the midfield department. Toni Kroos is the standout star name, having led Germany with distinction on numerous occasions down the years. He could be paired alongside the Bayern Munich duo of Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich, who were both instrumental in the German club’s 2020 Champions League triumph.
They have depth in this area too, with Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan heading to the Euros on the back of his best ever individual season for the English club. Low will also be aided by world class wingers in the form of Bayern duo Leroy Sane and Serge Gnabry, who will inject plenty of creativity and invention from wide areas.
And any weaknesses?
The problem areas were abundantly clear to anyone who witnessed their 6-0 defeat at the hands of Spain last year. The result exposed the lack of pace and organisation within the team’s back four, which was exacerbated by Low’s decision to deploy a very high defensive line. Time and time again, they were left vulnerable on the counter, with little in the way of midfield protection just in front. The jury is out on whether there is enough defensive solidity if Kimmich is asked to play at right-back – rather than in the holding role.
There are also issues to be resolved at the sharp end of the pitch, as without a true marksman, Germany could be short of goals against teams who deploy a low block. The main man up top is likely to be Chelsea’s Timo Werner, whose form has improved for the London club since Thomas Tuchel’s arrival. Even so, his finishing still leaves a lot to be desired.
Give us the lowdown on your team’s star player?
While Toni Kroos has carried Germany almost singlehandedly at times, this tournament could see another talented midfielder shoulder the burden of expectation. Joshua Kimmich has consistently impressed for the national team, as well as being one of Bayern Munich’s best performers over the past few seasons.
His ability at right-back is unparalleled, but this summer could be the year in which he gets the nod to play centrally for his country. If Kimmich does so, he will help provide vital defensive cover for the likes of Kroos and Gundogan in front. The 26-year-old is just as potent in attack too, with pinpoint passing accuracy – and arguably the best crossing ability in world football.
And tell us about a player from your team who could be a breakthrough star at this tournament?
One man who could really put himself on the radar of several clubs around Europe this summer is Florian Neuhaus. Borussia Monchengladbach’s 24-year-old midfielder has reportedly piqued the interest of Bayern Munich and Liverpool, after a number of eye-catching displays this season.
He may only have five German caps to his name, but as a mainstay of Stefan Kuntz’s under 21 side, if injury concerns continue to plague the likes of Leon Goretzka, Neuhaus could find himself in Low’s starting XI at some point during the Euros. Blessed technically, with excellent passing range and a rasping shot, he has been tipped to one day succeed Toni Kroos in the heart of the German midfield.
How far do you think your team can go in this tournament?
Anything seems possible at this moment in time for Germany. Given their poor recent form, and the general disarray behind the scenes, it wouldn’t be entirely shocking if Die Mannschaft finished bottom of Group F without a win to their name. Up against reigning world champions France, reigning European champions Portugal, and a talented Hungarian outfit, Germany will have to produce their very best football in order to finish top – and earn a favourable knockout opponent.
With that being said, this is still a German squad brimming with world class talent, bolstered by the spine of an all-conquering Bayern Munich side. They could still go all the way, but the realistic limit for this group of players, given recent events and the teams they will face this summer, may end up being the semi-finals – which they reached last time around in 2016. The first big hurdle the side must clear is to simply get out of the dreaded group of death.
Easy one to finish with, who wins the tournament, and who do you think will be top scorer?
Belgium to win, Harry Kane to be top scorer.