Germany clinched qualification for EURO 2020 as winners of Group C. In a topsy-turvy qualification campaign though, which players helped or hurt their prospects in the national team’s pecking order?
Germany clinched top spot in Group C at the end of a turbulent EURO 2020 qualifying campaign that was intended to sharpen the image of Germany’s latest iteration following a period of intense transition. Instead, with injuries rife and the competition for places more open than in recent years, there remain plenty of unanswered questions.
By the time the summer’s showpiece rolls around on June 12, Joachim Löw will have had to whittle his squad down to 23 players, but who used a topsy-turvy eight-game campaign to strengthen their case for being on board and whose stock dropped?
The superlatives to describe Gnabry’s performances have run short. His dynamism, flexibility and creativity were key to breaking down deep-lying opponents like Northern Ireland, as well as beating the Netherlands. In a new-look Germany side, the Bayern forward now looks like the one player Joachim Löw can’t do without after scoring eight goals in seven qualifiers.
The debate around Germany’s No1 spot appears to have been put to bed. Many had questioned whether Neuer warranted being the undisputed first-choice goalkeeper after the 2018 World Cup, but the doubters have been quieted following an exemplary qualifying campaign that produced five clean sheets in seven games, with the Netherlands the only side to score against him.
Germany’s left-back role has been a perpetual problem, while Philipp Lahm’s retirement and Joshua Kimmich’s insistence to play in midfield have left the door open on the right. Step forward Leipzig duo Marcel Halstenberg and Lukas Klostermann, who have quickly acclimatized to life on the international stage, racking up nine appearances between them whilst proving capable at both ends of the pitch.
An injury lay-off curtailed his impact, but with four goals and an assist to his name in the five qualifiers he did feature in, Goretzka’s stock has definitely risen in the national team. The Confederations Cup winner adds box-to-box qualities to an already enviable midfield unit, but the 24-year-old does face stiff competition for a starting berth, especially if Löw opts for a three-man backline.
The center back position is proving to be Löw’s biggest headache. Antonio Rüdiger and Niklas Süle picked up injuries, Niklas Stark was a ‘walking disaster’ off the pitch and Jonathan Tah was a ‘walking disaster’ on it. Ginter was the only source of consistency at the heart of defense, featuring in six of the eight games,while his incredible performance in the 4-0 win over Belarus will live long in the memory.
Süle’s status as Germany’s first-choice center back was undisputed when the EURO 2020 qualifying campaign got underway and it still is. However, tearing ligaments in his right knee for the second time in his career, has cast serious doubts about the viability of his inclusion when the summer rolls around. Risks cannot be taken with this injury, no matter how much Germany will miss him.
Along with fellow World Cup winners Thomas Müller and Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels got cut from the national team following a difficult Nations League campaign. Unlike the other two aforementioned players, calls for Hummels' involvement in the national team have increased in volume following Süle’s injury. Nevertheless Löw has stuck by his guns, which doesn’t bode well for the Dortmund defender even if he is producing fine form on the domestic circuit.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen
If Neuer is a big winner, then Marc-Andre ter Stegen has to be the big loser.The Barcelona keeper barely got a look in despite the pressure mounting on Löw to make a change. When he did finally get his chance against Northern Ireland he conceded inside the opening ten minutes from 30 yards, a stunning strike he could do little about, but not a good look if you want to usurp the bearer of the throne.
What does Kevin Volland need to do to get a look in at international level? The Leverkusen striker’s last appearance under Löw came in 2016, when he was more about endeavor than end product, but that has changed since. In 2019, no other German striker can match Volland’s 13 goals and that’s not to mention the assists he provides and the leadership qualities he demonstrates on the domestic circuit.
The Leverkusen youngster hasn’t done himself any favors by setting a ridiculously high bar, but it’s fair to say Havertz’s performances on the international stage have not met expectations, yet. After coming off the bench against the Netherlands and Northern Ireland, the 20-year-old got 90 minutes under his belt against Estonia and, while he provided an assist, it was clear he’s still looking to find his groove on the international stage.