Herzogenaurauch - After Friday's successful experiment in Astana, the burning question at Monday's pre-match press conference in Bavaria was whether Germany would once again play without a recognised striker in Tuesday's return fixture against Kazakhstan (kick-off 20:45 CET).
Head coach Joachim Löw's answer was hardly definitive: "There will always be a need for a striker," said the 46-year-old. "It’s entirely not the case that I’m abolishing the use of strikers in this team."
With FC Bayern Munich’s Mario Gomez and S.S. Lazio’s Miroslav Klose injured, Löw opted to play Borussia Dortmund’s Mario Götze, a midfielder by trade, as the team’s nominal frontman in Astana last Friday. Similar formations in recent friendlies against the Netherlands and France were encouraging, and the tactic worked well this time around too, as Germany ran out comfortable 3-0 winners.
"In modern international football, teams have become more organised and more solid defensively," explained Löw. "The spaces on the pitch are smaller and you have less time on the ball. For that reason, you will always need a striker who can run between the lines, stretch defences and shoot well. It just so happens that we have players like Mario Götze or Mesut Özil who are capable of doing the job."
Gomez withdrew from the squad on Tuesday morning, meaning the side will again be without a recognised striker. That may well result in Götze, who impressed up front last Friday, retaining his place. Nevertheless, Löw revealed that there would be "two or three changes" to the team, and such is the quality Germany possess in attack that any one of Marco Reus, Thomas Müller and former SV Werder Bremen star Özil could also lead the line in Nuremberg.
One change that is certain is that Borussia Dortmund’s Ilkay Gündogan will replace Bastian Schweinsteiger in midfield. The 23-year-old former 1. FC Nuremberg man turned in a remarkably assured display in Paris in February and Löw agreed his development has been outstanding: "He has been excellent, not just for Dortmund but for Germany as well. He was unbelievably good [against France] and has the potential to be a world-class player."
One of Gündogan’s best assets is his concentration, a word Löw used regularly in his press conference. Germany quickly established a two-goal lead in Astana on Friday but then appeared to take their foot off the gas, leading to a slightly complacent second-half display.
"We made some small mistakes and gave the ball away on occasion," said Löw. "We have to make sure that we retain that focus for the duration of the game to make sure of the result." With second-placed Sweden not playing until June, the squad will need no extra motivation to do just that and open up an eight-point lead at the top of Group C.
Germany: Neuer - Lahm, Boateng, Mertesacker, Jansen - Khedira, Gündogan - Müller, Özil, Reus – Götze
Kazakhstan: Sidelnikov - Engel, Logvinenko, Dmitrenko, Kirov - Nurdauletov, Bogdanov - Konysbaev, Khayrullin, Schmidtgal - Ostapenko