How will Germany line up under Hansi Flick?
Hansi Flick has named his first Germany squad since succeeding Joachim Löw as Germany coach on 1 August. How will Die Mannschaft line up under the former Bayern Munich man?
Flick was Löw's assistant when Germany lifted their fourth FIFA World Cup in Brazil in 2014, and fans are rightly excited to see the 56-year-old return after 18 months with Bayern which saw him hoover up two Bundesliga titles and a UEFA Champions League as part of an incredible seven-trophy haul.
The Germany team that featured at the recent UEFA Euro 2020 may be significantly different from the one which was crowned world champions in Rio de Janeiro seven years ago, even if Manuel Neuer, Thomas Müller, Toni Kroos, Mats Hummels and Matthias Ginter featured in both squads. It does at least help inform which players Flick will have at his disposal, though, when he continues their next World Cup qualification campaign in September.
Löw recalled Müller and Hummels for the competition after their two-year hiatus, and both were cornerstones this summer; Müller ostensibly leading the line in a 3-4-3 formation and Hummels at the heart of a back three, where he won praise for his last-ditch interventions as much as his now famous long-range passing.
Making the opposite journey to his fellow world champions is Kroos. The Real Madrid man has called time on his international career after 106 caps. Still just 31, the presence of Kroos, Manchester City's 13-goal top scorer Ilkay Gündogan and Bayern pair Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka gave Löw a selection headache in central midfield - one he alleviated by shifting Kimmich to the right flank.
Neuer, captain for club and country, and Müller have reaffirmed their commitment to the cause, and Flick has an impressive blend of youth and experience to call upon, Kroos or not.
A look at Flick's Bayern hints at his preferred system, meanwhile. In all but 12 of his matches in all competitions since succeeding Niko Kovac as coach in November 2019, he employed a 4-2-3-1 formation; ruthless efficiency and mastery of their positions the order of the day rather than trying to tactically outfox opponents.
Robert Lewandowski top scored last term with an all-time Bundesliga best of 41 goals, surpassing Gerd Müller's 49-year record on the way to claiming his fourth consecutive Torjägerkanone and sixth in eight years. Müller, with that focal point up ahead, laid on 18 assists in the league and 24 in all competitions.
Watch: Müller under the tactical microscope
Four of Flick's five most-used players - Neuer, Müller, Lewandowski, David Alaba and Jerome Boateng - had already seen their 30th birthdays, but Flick also trusted youth, with 20-year-old Alphonso Davies preferred to the club's record signing Lucas Hernandez at left-back, and 18-year-old Jamal Musiala getting significant minutes, especially towards the end of the season.
So, what might the above mean for Flick's Germany? It seems likely that he would stick with the same formation which swept him to such glory over the past two seasons, and the significant overlap in personnel between Bayern and Germany mean the players should adapt quickly.
Germany are yet to fully fill Miroslav Klose's boots, meanwhile; the penalty-box fox who retired in 2014 with a record 71 goals to his name. Serge Gnabry has a barely fathomable goal involvement rate of one every 92 minutes he has played for his country, but he would rather start from deeper and wider positions - something he does, like Müller, with Lewandowski available at club level.
Might Kai Havertz be a solution here? The Bayer Leverkusen-honed youngster began to post similar numbers to Lewandowski at the point of Die Werkself's attack before he left for Chelsea in 2020, and his winning goal against Man City in May's Champions League final shows his growing flair for the big occasion.
Kroos retiring means that Kimmich is likely to be restored to what could amount to a five-man Bayern midfield, while Ridle Baku's call-up means there is no need for Kimmich to be reconverted as a right-back.
With an enviable blend of youth and experience, and the game's most decorated manager over the last two years at the helm, Germany's Group J opponents will be on high alert.
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