Imagine if back in the day England left superstars like; Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, David Beckham, Rio Ferdinand and John Terry out of their squad for the FIFA Confederations Cup. Obviously it’s hypothetical as they would have had to qualify for the competition first, something they have never done. Anyway, just imagine it. The press would have a field day. The manager would be questioned by ever football fan in the country. So what happens when Germany do it? They reach the final of the competition with brilliant performances.
Who is absent from the German squad? Mario Gotze, Manuel Neuer and Benedikt Howedes are all injured or have an illness. So they were not available. Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Jerome Boateng, Mario Gomez, Mats Hummels and Sami Khedira have all been given time off at the end of the season. Just to remind you that there is also an under 21 competition being played at the moment where Germany’s younger side have beaten England on penalties to reach that final as well. The depth that Germany have is incredible. Their younger players have experience at the top level in the Bundesliga or at different clubs around the world.
In the absence of these world class stars who has been able to help Germany fire their team to the Confederations Cup final?
The captain of this Germany side is Julian Draxler who at 23 is the youngest German captain to lead the national team into a tournament for over 100 years. Draxler has played all four of the games at the competition and record a single goal and assist in that time. It is his running with the ball and creativity that has really caught the eye of spectators. The German captain has been highly rated for a long time. He played for Schalke 119 times between the age of 2011 and 2015. He debuted at Schalke and was recorded as their youngest every player and the fourth in Bundesliga history at the time. He was 17 years and 117 days old. He left Schalke in 2015 for Wolfsburg to replace Kevin De Bruyne who left for England. He spent two and half years at the German club but it could have been less. After two seasons he wanted to leave. Unable to do so he was met with a hostile reception when he returned to the first team. The tension meant in January the club decide to sell him. He moved to French giants Paris Saint German. He has gone down a storm in France’s capital. So even though he is still only 23 he has played over 150 times at the top league level in the country he was in. His ability to carry the ball, play killer balls and create space makes him a real and constant threat.
Joshua Kimmich signed for Bayern Munich in 2015 from RB Leipzig. He is a versatile player who can play in midfield or as he has in this tournament in defence. During Pep Guardiola’s time with the German giants Kimmich felt that he was able to develop at a good speed. He has consistently played for the German national side at right back after representing his country at all levels as well. Even though he has played deeper for the Germans in this competition he has still managed to provide assists for two goals in the competition. Although the German’s have not been able to keep a clean sheet in the tournament it has not effected them winning three and drawing one in their four games. Current manager Carl Ancelotti has stated that he is ‘natural heir’ to Phillip Lahm. Good news for Germany and Bayern Munich – the similarities are apparent and Ancelotti is more than likely correct.
Leipzig’s record signing Timo Werner has also been able to shine in the absence of big names. He excelled at the club after arriving from Stuttgart where he had been since 2002. His goals helped Leipzig to an unexpected second place finish in the Bundesliga, they were still 15 points off champions Bayern. He scored 21 times in 32 outings for the German team this season, which is 8 more than he scored for Stuttgart in his 95 appearances. His goalscoring statistics have been boosted as he has been switched from a winger to a central striker over the last three seasons. This form has carried into hi national team performances. He has been capped five times for the national team (three of these at this competition) and scored three goals which have all come at the Confederations Cup. He will be hoping to nail down the central striker role in the German team, a position they have struggled to find a natural goalscorer in since the retirement of Miroslav Klose.
Possibly the stand out performer in this competition has been Leon Goretzka. The Schalke central midfielder is a real string puller. He is a complete midfielder, he can pick a pass, dribbles well, is good in the air and has a goal in him. Eight goals and six assists were added to his record last season. Over the summer he has been linked with a move to England and potentially Arsenal. His performances at this tournament will not do Schalke any favours in keeping him. He has impressed for Germany up until this point. He fired the Germans into the final with two goals in the opening eight minutes getting them on their way to a 4-1 demolition of Mexico. He also claimed the man of the match award for the game.
It is insane to think that Germany are performing so well without the list of stars they are missing. However, you can see why. Their young players are given chances in the Bundesliga and often take it with both hands. They have a huge pool of players to select from and on the evidence of this tournament they have a production line of quality footballers. The four players mentioned have all performed to a high standard, but many more could have been mentioned. The mega stars of German football may be relaxing on a sunny beach somewhere now, but they may have to work harder than expected to earn their spot in the next German squad.
Can Germany’s youngest captain in over 100 years, Julian Draxler, lead his nation to Confederations Cup glory? We will find out on Sunday.