Euro 2016: Germany ready to end 20-year European drought

Euro 2016 marks a decade in charge for Joachim Löw. Can he mark the occasion with another major trophy?

Having, against all the odds, qualified for Euro 2016, Northern Ireland find themselves in a daunting Group C with Germany, Poland and Ukraine, how will they fare against some of Europe's most feared attackers? Ken Early reports.

 

Prospects

After a slightly disappointing qualification campaign, the World Champions will look to have their tournament heads on in France where Joachim Löw will be under a little bit of pressure to end the team’s longest ever run without a European title. He certainly has the players required to feature in the final shakedown. In advance of that, the draw has been rather kind with Group C perhaps regarded as among the very toughest. But the rewards for getting out of the group, which Germany will fully expect to do, are among the most generous - come first and they will face a third placed side while the runners up head to St Etienne for a clash with second placed team from France’s group. As long as that is not France themselves, then it should be a rather straightforward affair. Poland will give them a run for money as they did in qualifying but the Germans will hope to be firmly on course for Lille when they face Northern Ireland in their final group game.

How they qualified

Joachim Löw’s side didn’t have quite as easy a route to the finals as they would have envisioned with their fate coming down to the final game. Admittedly it would have taken quite a series of events to see them forced into the play-offs but only a late Max Kruse goal against Georgia ensured their top place as Poland narrowly beat the Republic of Ireland in Warsaw. The Germans were rocked early on in the campaign when they were pushed all the way by Scotland before succumbing to a 2-0 loss to Poland and then dropping two points at home to Ireland thanks to John O’Shea’s stoppage time equaliser. After that they got themselves back on track with five wins in a row before that night and that Shane Long goal consigned them to their second defeat of the campaign. That meant a win was needed on the final day in Leipzig to guarantee automatic qualification and win they did.

Manager: Joachim Löw

After making the step up from assistant manager to head coach when Jürgen Klinsmann left the post after the 2006 World Cup, Joachim Löw has brought a golden generation team up another level. A runners-up spot at Euro 2008 was followed by the semi-finals in 2012 and, finally, World Cup glory in 2014. The range of talent Löw has at his disposal for this summer’s championship is easily good enough to claim back-to-back major championships for the Germans but, after some shaky periods during qualifying, can the manager motivate his players to go all the way?

Star man: Thomas Müller

With 31 goals in 70 games for his country, Thomas Müller certainly boasts an impressive CV when it comes to the international stage. He is also no stranger to performing at major tournaments having netted five in Germany’s march to World Cup glory two years ago, taking him into the top 10 World Cup scorers of all time. Given the astronomically high standards set at Bayern Munich the last season has been somewhat of a disappointment given that he was dropped for the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals - the stage at which his team would exit the competition at the hands of Atletico Madrid. However, given his propensity for finding the net at major finals he will be key to what should be a strong challenge.

Prospect: Julian Draxler

Draxler has been touted as Germany’s next big thing for a while now and eyebrows were raised when he left Schalke 04 to join Wolfsburg, very much a sideways move - especially when he had been linked with a number of Europe’s elite clubs. However, any fears Draxler’s huge potential may not be fulfilled were allayed as he produced a number of dazzling performances to inspire his side to the Champions League quarter-finals. He is tall, rangy and a sublime dribbler - reminiscent of a young Cristiano Ronaldo but without the same raw pace.

Final Squad

Goalkeepers: Bernd Leno (Bayer Leverkusen), Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich),  Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona)

Defenders: Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich), Jonas Hector (Koln), Benedikt Howedes (Schalke), Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund), Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich), Shkodran Mustafi (Valencia), Antonio Rudiger (Roma), Julian Weigl (Borussia Dortmund).

Midfielders: Emre Can (Liverpool), Julian Draxler (Wolfsburg), Mario Gotze (Bayern Munich), Sami Khedira (Juventus), Toni Kroos (Real Madrid), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal), Leroy Sane (Schalke), Andre Schurrle (Wolfsburg), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Manchester United).

Forwards: Mario Gomez (Besiktas), Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich), Lukas Podolski (Galatasaray)

What President Trump says...

“The Germans aren’t the same since they got rid of the wall. My ancestors came from Germany to make America great. But they left behind a lot of not very pretty people. Have you seen Merkel?”

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