Porto Seguro - There was much speculation about the identity of Joachim Löw’s first-choice left-back at the 2014 World Cup prior to the tournament in Brazil, but FC Schalke 04 captain Benedikt Höwedes has more than justified his selection in die Nationalmannschaft’s back four during Germany’s successful Group G campaign.
Löw gets it right
Starting all three group encounters, the Royal Blues skipper has helped Germany to two clean sheets with two typically solid performances, and even against Ghana, a goal that drew the former SV Werder Bremen and FC Bayern München frontman level with Ronaldo at the top of the all-time World Cup scorers chart. It was an assist that proved crucial, as it laid the foundations for a 1-0 win over USA that saw Germany qualify as Group G winners.
Getting the nod ahead of Borussia Dortmund starlet Erik Durm, so impressive for BVB this season, was certainly no mean feat, and Höwedes, though usually deployed at centre-back, has been more than happy to occupy a previously unfamiliar role on the left. “The coach decided to start with four strong centre-backs and it’s proved successful,” the 26-year-old told schalke04.de.
The Haltern-born star has been accompanied in the backline by Bayern’s Jerome Boateng, Dortmund stalwart Mats Hummels and Arsenal FC stopper Per Mertesacker, all of whom have played predominantly in central defence for their clubs during the 2013/14 campaign. Nevertheless, it’s a combination that has borne fruit, with Germany conceding just twice in their three matches thus far.
'A real threat'
The quartet have proved no less of a nuisance at the other end of the pitch. As well as Höwedes’ assist against the Black Stars, Hummels managed to get his name on the scoresheet in the victory over Portugal with a bullet header from a Toni Kroos corner, and though Boateng is yet to open his international account, he has been a useful asset going forward, constantly offering width in attack.
have rightly grabbed the headlines, but Höwedes expects the back four to make a significant contribution to the team’s overall tally in Brazil. “We have players who can be a real threat from corners and free-kicks,” he explained. “It’s great if the defence can contribute to our attack like that.”
'Enjoy the moment'
Having progressed from what many had branded the tournament’s 'group of death' following the draw last year, Germany will now be confident of . Löw is nonetheless expecting a “tricky opponent” in Porto Alegre on Monday against a Desert Warriors side that secured a spot in the knockout rounds of the World Cup for the first time in their history after a 1-1 draw with Russia.
Should Germany overcome the North Africans, a quarter-final tie with the winners of Monday’s other clash between France and Nigeria lies in wait. Höwedes, isn’t looking too far ahead, however. “When the anthem starts before a game, I always just close my eyes, listen and enjoy the moment,” he explained, no doubt hoping to enjoy a few more moments like that before the tournament is up.