Nico Schulz's gilt-edged Germany debut has enhanced his chances of being installed as Joachim Löw's new first-choice left full-back, but who else is contending the coveted No.3 shirt?

Since Philipp Lahm was moved to the right of the defence several years ago, filling the void he left has been the subject of much debate. Erik Durm, Marcel Schmelzer and Jonas Hector have all been tried, with Marvin Plattenhardt and Marcel Halstenberg also earning some game time prior to Schulz's match-winning performance against Peru.

With Augsburg's prolific assister Philipp Max also pushing for consideration, has taken a look at the main candidates for regular possession of a shirt previously worn with distinction by the likes of Paul Breitner, Andreas Brehme and Marco Bode.

Nico Schulz (Hoffenheim, 25 years old)

Schulz was clearly always on Germany’s radar as he made his way up through the youth ranks at his first club Hertha Berlin. He chalked up 51 caps for his country from schoolboy to U21 level before a cruciate ligament injury in October 2015 checked his progress - soon after he had moved to Borussia Mönchengladbach.

Nico Schulz has hot-footed it into the Germany squad, and made his debut against Peru. © imago / Jan Huebner

The left-footed Berlin native changed clubs again in August 2017, and was described as one of the quickest players in the league on his arrival at Hoffenheim. He finished with one goal and five assists in his first Bundesliga season working under Julian Nagelsmann, clocking a speed of 21.5 mph and recording a pass-completion rate of 77 percent. That particular figure is not bad at all for a wide man whose success from crosses also depends on attackers beating their marker to get on the end of them. Schulz also netted in Hoffenheim's first ever European victory, a 3-1 UEFA Europa League success against Istanbul Basaksehir in October 2017.

Jonas Hector (Cologne, 28)

Cologne's captain fantastic doesn't make headlines for grabbing assists like Augsburg counterpart Philipp Max and he doesn't have stunning free-kicks in his locker like Hertha Berlin's Marvin Plattenhardt, but he is (a) a tried and tested member of the current Germany set-up; (b) a grafter; (c) mega-versatile and (d) refreshingly modest.

Jonas Hector may have dropped down a division with Cologne, but he remains an important option for Germany. © gettyimages / Eisenhuth

Hector has been an ever-present at senior international level since after coming into the side following Germany's 2014 World Cup triumph. He played every minute of Die Mannschaft's UEFA EURO 2016 campaign, confidently dispatching the decisive penalty past Gianluigi Buffon in the quarter-final win over Italy. He missed just one game at last year's triumphant Confederations Cup and was Löw's first-choice at left back at Russia 2018.

Marvin Plattenhardt (Hertha Berlin, 26)

He may have been playing second fiddle to Hector since making his Germany debut in June 2018, but Hertha Berlin left-back Marvin Plattenhardt could yet become Joachim Löw’s first-choice. 

Watch: Plattenhardt's collection of stunning free-kicks

Plattenhardt now has six international caps to his name and was part of the national team squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. He scored three free-kicks in 2016/17, improved his build-up play last season, chipping in with a team-high seven assists as Hertha finished in 10th, ten points clear of the relegation quagmire.

Marcel Halstenburg (RB Leipzig, 27)

Halstenberg made his Germany debut in the goalless draw with England in November 2017, and he pleased Löw with his performance. "He didn't show any nerves – which you might expect playing in front of 80,000 at Wembley Stadium - and played an intelligent game; he is certainly a player we could do with in this position," said the Germany coach of the Leipzig player, who is happy to be involved in a five-way fight for selection. "Football thrives on competition," he said. "All I have to do is focus on myself."

Injury curtailed Marcel Halstenberg's (c.) 2017/18 season halfway through, but he is closing in on a comeback after appearing for the reserves. © imago / Picture Point LE

His 2017/18 campaign ended in January due to serious injury, but he has now returned to action for Leipzig and will be keen to make up for lost time and resume his battle for a place on Germany's left.

Philipp Max (Augsburg, 24)

Augsburg left-back Philipp Max became the first defender since detailed data collection began in 1993 to reach 12 assists in a single Bundesliga season in 2017/18. That was as many goals as Bayern Munich's FIFA World Cup-winning forward Thomas Müller and more than his colleague for club and country, Lahm's successor Joshua Kimmich. He also teed up over 80 shots last season — more than any other player — and his 120 crosses — a Bundesliga-best ahead of fellow foraging full-back Kimmich — led to five Augsburg goals.

Philipp Max (l.) set a new assist record for a full-back last season, but he also has impressive defensive stats. © DFL DEUTSCHE FUSSBALL LIGA / Lukas Schulze

All the emphasis on his attacking play does not mean he can be accused of being "a defender who cannot defend," though. He won just under half of all his challenges last season, and the seven miles per game he averaged zipping up and down the left flank made him one of the German top-flight’s busiest full-backs. Not bad for a player who was told by Schalke’s legendary youth coach Norbert Elgert — the man who brought through Julian Draxler and Mesut Özil — "You have the stamina of a below-average chess player."

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