The experience of Toni Kroos (r.) appears to be getting the best our of youngsters Jamal Musiala and Florian Wirtz as Germany approach Euro 2024. - © IMAGO/Moritz Mueller
The experience of Toni Kroos (r.) appears to be getting the best our of youngsters Jamal Musiala and Florian Wirtz as Germany approach Euro 2024. - © IMAGO/Moritz Mueller

How will Germany line up under Julian Nagelsmann at Euro 2024?


Toni Kroos has been tempted out of international retirement ahead of UEFA Euro 2024 and Julian Nagelsmann looks to have settled on a winning formula that gets the best out of Jamal Musiala and Florian Wirtz, as well as Kai Havertz. So, how will Germany line up this summer?

Now six games into his tenure, statement victories over France and the Netherlands suggest Nagelsmann's side have struck upon something capable of making the hosts serious contenders to lift the Euro 2024 trophy.

Those wins followed a pair of lacklustre defeats in November, which were preceded by a win and a draw over the USA and Mexico, respectively, in Nagelsmann's first outings as national team head coach.

With the tournament now on the horizon, Nagelsmann has named his preliminary squad of 27 - one player will be dropped from the group before the competitions starts. The head coach has clearly based his selection on his tenure so far.

Looking back at it now, there has been a clear evolution in the side during the 'three stages of Nagels'.

The opening matches - a 3-1 victory over USA, followed by a 2-2 draw with Mexico - very much appeared to be feelers, with Hansi Flick’s successor getting to know what exactly he was working with. Both 4-2-3-1 and 4-2-2-2 formations were deployed, with Jonathan Tah and Niklas Süle used as makeshift right-backs, Robin Gosens starting from the left in each game and Havertz getting just 28 minutes from the bench.

Nagelsmann tried a familiar 4-2-3-1 formation in his first match as head coach against the USA. - DFL

Ever the tactical innovator, Nagelsmann - who was the youngest ever Bundesliga coach aged 28 when he took charge of Hoffenheim in 2016, and steered Bayern Munich to a Bundesliga title in 2021/22 - was thinking way out the box for the sequel fixtures of his trilogy.

His 4-2-3-1 setup against Türkiye was familiar, but Havertz operating from left-back was far from ordinary. The former Bayer Leverkusen attacker did in fact open the scoring in that game, but a 3-2 defeat in Berlin was a fair result.

So too was the subsequent 2-0 loss in Austria when the experiment went one further. Havertz was this time used as a wing-back outside a back-three and Leroy Sané's red card summed up a miserable night.

The sight of Kai Havertz at left-back raised some eyebrows in Julian Nagelsmann’s second set of fixtures in charge. - DFL

Nagelsmann must have learned a lot from those first outings, though, leading to impressive performances against the French and Dutch, where he named the same starting XI in a 4-2-3-1 formation on both occasions.

The return of Kroos to the setup already looks a masterstroke, adding class and experience to the midfield, with his first performances back with the national team displaying both in bulk.

Within seven seconds back in the side, Kroos had an assist, his arrowing ball from kick-off freeing Wirtz to let fly and set a new Germany record for the nation's fastest goal. It was an immediate example of how Kroos' presence has had a positive impact on those around him.

The durability of Robert Andrich alongside the former Leverkusen and Bayern playmaker adds greater balance, with further stability provided by the preferred centre-back pairing of Tah and Antonio Rüdiger behind them. Further forward is where the greatest impact is had, however, in freeing the trio of captain Ilkay Gündoğan, Musiala and Wirtz.

A standard 4-2-3-1 formation that allowed Florian Wirtz and Jamal Musiala to flourish proved fruitful against France and the Netherlands. - DFL

“The three of them have a lot of freedom that they can enjoy," said Nagelsmann before the France win.

Gündoğan added: "Jamal and Flo are in top form. I want to support them by providing the necessary balance so they can show their magic."

As well as Wirtz's goal, Kroos collected a second provision against the Netherlands, while Musiala also came away from the fixtures with a brace of assists to his name. Evidently, the attacking midfield triumvirate has quickly clicked.

“I feel good with Flo on and off the pitch," said Musiala following the France victory, where he was debuted in the No.10 shirt for his country. "The connection between us gets even better with every game."

Watch: Musiala and Wirtz – Germany’s future

As Musiala went on to explain, the presence of Gündoğan as the steady hand flanked by the two generational talents is aiding the group's rapid development.

The Bayern schemer added: “He is the captain, has more experience than us and always occupies the middle... It was really fun. We saw and felt that everyone was really keen to play together. You could see our quality.”

In fact, there is so much quality on display that Sané - a key component of Bayern's run to the UEFA Champions League semi-finals - now has a job on his hands to get into the starting XI, and his club teammate, Joshua Kimmich, has been forced into reverting to right-back.

Kimmich missed Nagelsmann's opening games before lining up in central midfield, but it is apparent the 29-year-old will be at right-back when the Euros come around.

Speaking to Der Spiegel, Nagelsmann said: “Of course, every player has a favourite position. If I asked Manuel Neuer, he’d definitely like to dictate the play in midfield - which he might be able to do - but he’s much better as a goalkeeper.

“With the national team every player has to subordinate himself and be a servant for your country. That’s Kimmich.”

Watch: A tactical look at Kimmich when he played right-back for Bayern

Any doubt to whether Kimmich was willing to take one for the team was firmly put to bed by Nagelsmann following the most recent set of matches, saying: “Josh is a very important player for us. He embodies a lot of what is missing from young players these days: the absolute desire to win.

"If you just see him celebrating after the final whistle [against France], you wouldn’t think it was just a friendly. It bothers him a bit that people say he doesn’t want to play the right-back position. In general, he’s very open."

Another player who has had to accept servitude is Marc-André ter Stegen, with Nagelsmann giving clarity prior to the March internationals that a fully fit Manuel Neuer remains his No.1. Borussia Dortmund striker Niclas Füllkrug also appeared to accept his role as an impact player of the bench, with Havertz looking like he will lead the line from now on.

"I'm really relaxed," said Füllkrug, who has scored 11 times in just 15 international appearances, five of those as a substitute. "I've already scored goals when I come off the bench and can give a team input and energy from this role. A tournament is about having players in a role in which they help the team."

If everyone is fit and available, could this be how Germany line up to open Euro 2024 against Scotland in Munich? - DFL

This all hints at a togetherness, and unselfishness, among the ranks which points to a bright future - both at the upcoming Euros on home soil and beyond.

The long-term thinking hasn't stopped there, either, with Nagelsmann already handing first caps to Andrich, Waldemar Anton, Kevin Behrens, Marvin DuckschChris Führich, Maximilian Mittelstädt and Deniz Undav. The VfB Stuttgart quartet have all been included in the Euros squad.

They all provide excellent options and, importantly, variety in their positions, while Mittelstädt has seamlessly slotted into the left-back role and marked his second appearance with an eye-catching first goal for his country - a goal made even more impressive in that the defender recovered from a mistake that handed the Dutch the lead.

Among those new faces, Nagelsmann still has 2014 World Cup-winning Thomas Müller for added experience at his disposal, too, although Mats Hummels was left at home.

Watch: The best of Germany's Bundesliga call-ups

It looks increasingly likely Germany will line up as genuine title hopefuls on home soil this summer.