Lahm, Kroos, Khedira – who partners Schweinsteiger for Germany at World Cup?

Germany have been struck by a string of injuries in the centre of the park, leaving Joachim Low with an unwanted conundrum ahead of the tournament

ANALYSIS
By Enis Koylu

Around a year ago, Germany had an embarrassment of riches in midfield. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira were the incumbent choices for the ‘Doppelsechs’ position but had stern competition from the likes of Ilkay Gundogan, both Lars and Sven Bender and Toni Kroos all starring at elite clubs.

However, over the course of the 2013-14 campaign, injuries have taken their toll on Joachim Low’s troops. Gundogan has not featured since a friendly against Paraguay 10 months ago, and his Dortmund colleague, Sven Bender has been on the sidelines since February.

His twin brother Lars was included in the squad for the World Cup but was forced to withdraw thanks a to thigh injury and Khedira has played just three matches since November, when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament.

Philipp Lahm emerged as a contender to partner Schweinsteiger after playing in the centre of the park for Bayern Munich, while Kroos’ performances for his country this season have been a marked improvement. So, Goal examines Low’s candidates in midfield.

The easiest option is to stick with the tried and tested formula of having Sami Khedira feature along Schweinsteiger. The Real Madrid star will be on a high after playing a part in his side’s victorious Champions League final and has all the expereince you could want in a midfield general.

There are, however, obvious difficulties. The former Stuttgart man has made just a handful of appearances since picking up an anterior cruciate ligament injury in November and freely admitted that he is not yet fit. “I think it’s obvious that I was not at my best on the pitch. That’s why I had to go off,” he said after the 4-1 win over Atletico Madrid in Lisbon.

He did, however, insist that he will be fine come the start of the tournament and has long worked well with Schweinsteiger. Within the squad, he is a popular figure and has even captained the team on occasion and, despite his physical problems, remains the best candidate.

To say that Toni Kroos has had a turbulent international career would be an understatement. The Bayern Munich star has been bumped from position to position and came in for heavy criticism in the wake of their semi-final exit to Italy at Euro 2012 – when he played on the right wing.

A few injuries earlier in the season to Schweinsteiger and his rivals for a starting spot saw him perform admirably in the autumn internationals in the place of his club colleague after he had fallen behind in the pecking order.

However, the thought of playing him alongside Schweinsteiger will have the alarm bells ringing. Three recent examples of the duo playing in tandem with one another are the 4-4 draw at home to Sweden, the 5-3 win in the return in Stockholm and Bayern’s 4-0 loss to Real Madrid in the Champions League.

In the wake of the collapse at home to the Scandinavians, Schweinsteiger admitted that they did not work well together, saying: “With a Bender, this would not have happened”. With Germany facing strong group-stage oppositon in the form of Portugal, USA and Ghana, Low cannot afford to sacrifice defensive stability for further attacking quality.

Pep Guardiola’s first season at Bayern Munich saw Philipp Lahm emerge as a serious contender for a spot in midfield after quickly becoming the heartbeat of his club side thanks to his calmness, experience and abundant quality.

Low was actually the first to toy with the idea of playing the 30-year-old in the centre of the park but perhaps would be wise to take his skipper out of his preferred position on the right-hand side of the back four.

Kevin Grosskreutz has emerged as a good understudy at full-back with a string of accomplished performances at the back for Borussia Dortmund this season but remains relatively inexperienced in the position.

With Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal waiting in the wings, Lahm must play in his normal position to help Germany through their daunting group. With enormous pressure on Germany in every game, now is not the time to experiment.

The thought that Christoph Kramer had a shot a World Cup place at the start of the season would have been the ridiculous, but the 23-year-old has impressed at Borussia Monchengladbach over the past campaign.

On loan from Bayer Leverkusen, Kramer made his international debut in the recent draw with Poland and he was widely expected to be dropped from Low’s squad. However, Bender’s injury and his strong performances at Borussia Park have handed him a shot at a trip to Brazil.

There are obvious risks, however. A year ago, he was playing second-tier football and has never played European football at club level. Furthermore, his solitary Germany cap came in a friendly alongside many other rookies starting their careers.

As such, playing him against the likes of Portugal, or later in the tournament, Spain and Brazil is a huge risk. Low is under pressure to deliver after going through three major tournaments without success and having a player so inexperienced in such a critical situation could just as easily prove a disaster as a masterstroke.

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‘No danger of Ribery missing World Cup’ – French FA president

The Bayern ace had to undergo a scan on his back on Saturday afternoon, but the results have shown up positively for Les Bleus

Franck Ribery will be present for France in Brazil for the World Cup this summer, French FA president Noel Le Graet has confirmed.

The Bayern Munich winger missed Les Bleus’ 4-0 win over Norway earlier this week and will not feature in Sunday’s friendly against Paraguay in Nice due to a back problem, but a scan in Paris on Saturday afternoon showed positive results for Didier Deschamps’ side.

“The exams that he has undergone have shown there is no danger of him missing the competition,” Le Graet told the media.

“He was a little worried because he had a little pain in his lower back, but it is not of a serious injury. He will certainly resume training next week.”

Ribery has not always enjoyed particularly popularity in France but after being nominated for the 2013 Ballon d’Or he is widely considered to be a vital player in Deschamps’ side if they are to enjoy a strong run in the competition.

With 81 caps to his name, there is no player in the current French squad who boasts greater international experience than the 31-year-old.

Real Madrid hit with partial stadium closure following racist incident

European football’s governing body has taken action against the Champions League winners following incident during the home win over Bayern Munich

Uefa has ordered the partial closure of the Santiago Bernabeu for one match following the charge of racist behaviour by Real Madrid fans during the 1-0 Champions League win over Bayern Munich on April 23.

The Spanish giants recorded a narrow win over the Bundesliga giants that eventually set them on their way to Champions League glory, but part of their stadium will be shut down for their next home game in European competitions following incidents that took place during the game.

“The Uefa Control and Disciplinary Body has handed down sanctions to Real Madrid following incidents during their Champions League semi-final first leg against Bayern Munichen in the Spanish capital on 23 April,” an official statement reads.

“Following the charge of racist behaviour by Real Madrid supporters during the match (Article 14 of the Uefa Disciplinary Regulations), the Control and Disciplinary Body has ordered the partial closure of the Santiago Bernabeu for one match. More specifically, sectors 120 and 122 of the stadium will be closed for the club’s next Uefa competition home game.

“Real Madrid are obliged to display a banner with the wording ‘No to Racism’ in those sectors.”

The fight against racism is a high priority for Uefa and European football’s governing body has a zero-tolerance policy towards racism and discrimination, both on the pitch and in the stands.

All forms of racist behaviour are considered serious offences against the disciplinary regulations and are severely punished.

BREAKING NEWS: Real Madrid hit with partial stadium closure following racist incident

Competitions

Schedule

Table

Team P Pts

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view all

Predict & Bet

  • England – Peru
  • Spain – Bolivia
  • Netherlands – Ghana
  • Portugal – Greece
  • Italy – Ireland
Top predictions Odds
ENG 2-0 PER

5.50

ENG 3-0 PER

8.00

ENG 3-1 PER

12.00

Top predictions Odds
ENG 2-0 PER

5.50

ENG 3-0 PER

7.00

ENG 3-1 PER

13.00

Top predictions Odds
ENG 2-0 PER

6.00

ENG 3-0 PER

7.00

ENG 3-1 PER

13.00

Top predictions Odds
ESP 4-0 BOL

9.50

ESP 3-0 BOL

7.00

ESP 2-0 BOL

6.00

Top predictions Odds
ESP 4-0 BOL

8.50

ESP 3-0 BOL

6.50

ESP 2-0 BOL

6.00

Top predictions Odds
ESP 4-0 BOL

8.00

ESP 3-0 BOL

6.50

ESP 2-0 BOL

6.50

Top predictions Odds
NLD 1-2 GHA

21.00

NLD 2-1 GHA

8.00

NLD 2-0 GHA

7.00

Top predictions Odds
NLD 1-2 GHA

19.00

NLD 2-1 GHA

8.50

NLD 2-0 GHA

6.50

Top predictions Odds
NLD 1-2 GHA

19.00

NLD 2-1 GHA

8.50

NLD 2-0 GHA

7.00

Top predictions Odds
PRT 3-1 GRC

15.00

PRT 2-0 GRC

6.50

PRT 2-1 GRC

8.50

Top predictions Odds
PRT 3-1 GRC

15.00

PRT 2-0 GRC

6.00

PRT 2-1 GRC

8.50

Top predictions Odds
PRT 3-1 GRC

15.00

PRT 2-0 GRC

6.00

PRT 2-1 GRC

9.00

Top predictions
ITA 2-0 IRL
ITA 3-0 IRL
ITA 3-1 IRL
Top predictions Odds
ITA 2-0 IRL

6.50

ITA 3-0 IRL

10.00

ITA 3-1 IRL

13.00

Top predictions Odds
ITA 2-0 IRL

7.00

ITA 3-0 IRL

11.00

ITA 3-1 IRL

15.00

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Thiago: Guardiola is an amazing coach

The young playmaker has voiced his admiration for the Bayern boss and feels the German game is a lot quicker than Spanish football

Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara has taken the time to praise head coach Pep Guardiola and has hailed the former Barcelona boss’ work with promising youngsters in particular.

Thiago was reunited with Guardiola at Bayern this season following his transfer from Barca last summer and the Spain international has nothing but positive words for his mentor.

“Guardiola is keeping a close eye on all the young players. He is an amazing coach,” Thiago told GQ.

“When he took over at Barcelona, he immediately implemented the style of play he had used at the B team the year before.

“When I was promoted to the senior team at Barca, I obviously had a lot of respect for all the big names. But I already knew how to play football.”

The 23-year-old then went on to compare the Bundesliga with La Liga and stressed that there are plenty of differences between both leagues.

“The game is a lot slower and technical in Spain. In Germany on the other hand, the style of play is much faster and more physical.”