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Argentina then Scotland for Germany

Jonathan Harding
September 3, 2014

After only two Bundesliga matchdays, Germany's national team has its first engagements of the season - one a friendly, the other the first step towards the next title.

Nationalmannschaft Deutschland Fußball Training
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Just over 50 days after Germany lifted the World Cup trophy in Brazil, Joachim Löw is gathering his charges for their next challenge. After a friendly on Wednesday in Düsseldorf against the Argentine side they defeated in the World Cup final, things get more serious for Germany as they begin their 2016 European Championship qualifying campaign against Scotland in Dortmund on Sunday night.

It will be the first time since Germany's World Cup victory that Löw's men take to the field and in almost no time at all, the next tournament looms. "The next big goal for us after the final in Rio clearly has to be the European Championship final in Paris," said Löw in a press conference on Tuesday afternoon. Considering their 18-game unbeaten run (last defeated by the USA in in June 2013), Germany will be keen to show no signs of a World Cup comedown.

After a trio of retirements (first captain Philipp Lahm, then record-goalscorer Miroslav Klose and most recently Per Mertesacker) and a few niggling injuries at the start of the domestic season, this squad of 18 World Cup winners is already in the process of building on the successful foundations left in Brazil.

From Stuttgart to Germany

Perhaps the biggest change comes in the dugout. Former VfB Stuttgart coach Thomas Schneider will be Löw's new number two from October. Schneider replaces Hansi Flick, who has taken up a new role as sporting director of the German Football Association (DFB), and will be keen to show his qualities after a difficult spell in the Bundesliga.

Joachim und Löw und Thomas Schneider
Schneider played under Löw at Stuttgart back in 1997Image: imago sportfotodienst

On the field, Germany welcome back Marco Reus and Mario Gomez. After missing the World Cup in heartbreaking fashion, Reus returns to the delight of Löw. "I am delighted for Marco Reus that he is back and has overcome his injury. We missed him in Brazil," said Löw in a statement issued by the DFB. While his absence proved to be less of an issue than first feared, Reus remains one of the country's star assets and will be keen to stay injury-free this season.

After more than a year out of the international fold, Gomez is also back. "I know that Mario Gomez has worked extremely hard and with discipline. He badly wanted to return and truly deserves his nomination," the Germany coach said. With Klose now no longer standing in his way, the Fiorentina striker has a good chance to remind Löw that an old-fashioned striker still has its place in this fluid Germany team.

New captain out of action

Germany's preparations have been hampered by a handful of niggling injuries. Newly-appointed captain Bastian Schweinsteiger misses out due to injury, as does the defensive pairing of Jerome Boateng (knee pain) and Mats Hummels (still recovering from his muscle injury). Mesut Özil remains a doubt after team manager Oliver Bierhoff told reporters on Monday that it would be "very tough for Wednesday for Mesut." On Tuesday afternoon, Sami Khedira (muscle injury) was also confirmed as an absentee.

Bildkombo Thomas Müller, Manuel Neuer, Bastian Schweinsteiger
Among several captaincy candidates, many from Bayern, Schweinsteiger got the nod

Löw has called up Hoffenheim midfielder Sebastian Rudy as a result. Having played once for the first team and with a fair amount of experience at U21 level - 23 appearances, 5 goals - Rudy will be keen to show Löw he's worth keeping around.

Erik Durm, who recently signed an extension through 2019 with his club Borussia Dortmund, and Matthias Ginter appear to have done just that - they keep their places in the squad. The same could be said for Christoph Kramer and Julian Draxler, who like Durm and Ginter, are set to be key figures in Germany's progression from their World Cup success.

Despite some disappointing performances at the start of the Bundesliga season, Stuttgart defender Antonio Rüdiger has also earned himself a recall to Löw's squad having featured before the World Cup in the 0-0 draw against Poland.

The last time Germany suffered defeat on home soil came in a friendly against Argentina - a 3-1 loss in August 2012. Against Argentina, Löw looks set to use the friendly as what it is and experiment. Benedikt Höwedes - an ever-present star at left back in the World Cup - may be forced into a more central role to partner Ginter, with Rüdiger and Durm on the flanks of a back four. The match offers an opportunity for Löw to check fitness levels of those returning, see how the new faces are integrating and experiment with ways to cover for his missing personnel.

Three fond farewells

While the World Cup final rematch might grab all the headlines - Lahm, Klose and Mertesacker are to be given a fitting farewell before the game in Düsseldorf - the really intriguing part of Germany's next chapter starts on Sunday. Fitness depending, Löw may well turn to Gomez to lead the front line, while Kramer will most likely partner Kroos in holding midfield after both have had sterling starts to their domestic campaigns. Manuel Neuer will wear the armband during Schweinsteiger's absence, but no official vice captain has been appointed.

Per Mertesacker erklärt Rücktritt aus Nationalmannschaft
Some faces, like Mertesacker, chose to go out on a highImage: picture alliance/augenklick

"Actions instead of words" was the motto Löw wanted his side to follow this week, and his team would be wise to do so. The euphoria of winning a World Cup has now passed and it's time for Germany to set their sights on building the foundations for the next challenge. The Bundesliga is more popular than ever, German clubs continue to do well in the Champions League and the country continues to produce young footballing talent at a remarkable rate. All of the pieces are in place for Germany to sustain a period of dominance, starting against Scotland.

Germany's full squad for the friendly vs. Argentina and the qualifier vs. Scotland:

Goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Roman Weidenfeller (Borussia Dortmund), Ron-Robert Zieler (Hannover 96)

Defenders: Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich), Erik Durm (Borussia Dortmund), Matthias Ginter (Borussia Dortmund), Kevin Großkreutz (Borussia Dortmund), Benedikt Höwedes (Schalke 04), Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund), Antonio Rüdiger (VfB Stuttgart)

Midfielders: Julian Draxler (Schalke 04), Sami Khedira (Real Madrid), Christoph Kramer (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Toni Kroos (Real Madrid), Thomas Müller (Bayern Munich), Mesut Özil (Arsenal), Lukas Podolski (Arsenal), Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund), Andre Schürrle (Chelsea), Mario Götze (Bayern Munich), Sebastian Rudy (TSG Hoffenheim)

Forwards: Mario Gomez (Fiorentina)