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Opinion: Germany's Euro 2016 squad - drop the captain, trust the young guns

Joachim Löw has selected his preliminary 27-man squad for Euro 2016. Does he have the courage to take his young stars? Does he have enough width? DW's Jonathan Harding dissects the squad selection.

Ahead of Euro 2016, the normally conservative Joachim Löw has made a number of bold decisions regarding personnel in his preliminary squad. But despite 14 World Cup winners, there are a few points of contention in Löw's squad.

Yes to the young stars!

When Germany were knocked out at the group stage of Euro 2000, Julian Brandt, Joshua Kimmich, Julian Weigl and Leroy Sané were just starting to kick a ball. Now the latest stars in Germany's production line of young talent are in the preliminary squad for this year's tournament in France.

Sané has done enough to replace Lukas Podolski, whose inclusion is increasingly one based on character rather than form, while Kimmich's versatility helps Löw endlessly. Brandt's form and Weigl's awareness mean they too should be included. Löw must be brave. None of these four should be anywhere near the sofa this summer.

A captain all at sea?

"He's important for us, even if he might not make it for the first game," said Löw on Tuesday, which suggests that whatever state Bastian Schweinsteiger is in, he will be in the final 23. Löw might have spent a long time talking about the "waiting game" over the 31-year-old, but frankly, the former Bayern-Munich man shouldn't be anywhere near the squad. He hasn't played enough, he hasn't been good enough and he should never have been made captain. His last great act on the pitch came at the Maracana two years ago. He gave an almighty performance in the World Cup final, a display that would have been a fitting note to end on. His role in the squad is unique, but it feels like history and leadership comes at too great a price.

Deutschland Fußballspieler Julian Brandt & Leroy Sané

Julian Brandt and Leroy Sane are Germany's present, not just their future and Löw must recognize that this summer

What width?

Löw's options on either side of his defense are a concern. The decision to overlook Borussia Dortmund left-back Marcel Schmelzer in particular is baffling. Schmelzer has suffered dips in form in the past but has flourished this season under Thomas Tuchel and is Germany's best option on the left. Löw's decision to pick only Jonas Hector as a natural left-back suggests Benedikt Höwedes could also resume his World Cup role in the position. As important a character as Höwedes is, the Schalke captain has played fewer than 900 Bundesliga minutes this season. It's a risk to have not only a lack of width but also a lack of match-practice in the squad.

Similiar issues extend to the other side of the defense, where Philipp Lahm's absence remains painfully noticeable. Sebastian Rudy has played at right-back for the majority of his 10 caps but has only played there once in 24 league games for Hoffenheim this season. If the inclusion of Kimmich is more than just positive spin, then he should be Löw's starting right-back ahead of Rudy (what about Matthias Ginter?). It would be yet another example of how Löw has learned (and benefited) from Pep Guardiola's tactical teachings. This would also free Emre Can of a right-back spot he has far too long been plagued by, allowing him to play in midfield.

The goalkeeper luxury

Bernd Leno's inclusion as the squad's third keeper must have been a kick in the teeth to the likes of Kevin Trapp and Ron-Robert Zieler. Granted, getting relegated didn't help Zieler, but he is a World Cup winner. The chances of a third keeper getting on the pitch are minimal, so if Löw wants experience in his squad that spot seems the best place to do it. If form is the decisive factor, then Kevin Trapp is hard to ignore. He might have had his critics in France, but he's playing (and winning titles) at the highest level. While the conversation about Germany's third choice goalkeeper is a luxury that simply highlights the wealth of quality available to Löw, every squad member plays a part in winning a title.

Lukas Podolski Mario Gomez Türkische Liga

Lukas Podolski (left) continues to live off the graces of previous years, while Mario Gomez has returned from the shadows

Striker(s)

Mario Gomez's inclusion is pleasing, and fully deserved after his 26-goal haul in Turkey for Besiktas this sesaon. More importantly, having Gomez as a Plan B is a smart move from Löw. If whichever midfielder playing furthest forward fails to deliver after an hour, Löw can now change the style - an option he's lacked in previous tournaments. Thomas Müller remains the first choice to lead the line, but now Löw can play a fluid front four, which includes the unique option of Müller's space manipulation, or opt for Gomez's more classical center-forward qualities.

As with every international squad, the right mix of old heads and youthful cheek is the key to success. After Brazil, Germany are under pressure to win it all and follow Spain's lead. But it's been two years since that group made history in South America and this team is ready to move on from the pillars that held it up for so long. It must, if it wants to survive.

How do you feel about Joachim Löw's squad selection? Do you agree? Let us know in the comments section below.

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