World Cup Final: Germany
PORTO SEGURO, Brazil (AP) – Here is a look at Germany’s likely starters and substitutes for the World Cup final against Argentina today at the Maracana.
Manuel Neuer: One of the best goalkeepers in the World Cup. Saved Germany from an embarrassment against Algeria, and protected the quarter-final win over France with late save. Neuer has cat-like reflexes and will run far off the line if necessary. Hardly tested against Brazil.
Philipp Lahm: Germany’s captain has returned to his natural position as right back and the defence has played with much more authority since then. Probably one of the best defenders in his position. Lahm likes to come forward and can score, sends useful crosses from the right and makes few mistakes.
Mats Hummels: Has been a rock at the centre of defence, holding the back four together. Hummels not only defends but can also score. Ventures forward on free kicks and corners and has scored twice, including the winner against France. Hard to beat in the air.
Jerome Boateng: Not the fastest of defenders but a huge physical presence. Boateng does not shy away from one-on-one situations but can be beaten under pressure. Like all Germany defenders, he is big and good in the air.
Benedikt Hoewedes: Trained as a centre back, Hoewedes was surprisingly picked to play out of position at left back when coach Joachim Loew was looking for a solution for the weak spot on the team. Has done well and will likely be the one dealing with Lionel Messi in the final. Does not provide much support in the attack, and sticks with defending duties. Along with Lahm and Neuer, the only German to have played every minute in Brazil.
Bastian Schweinsteiger: One of Germany’s key players. The midfielder in front of the defence sets the pace of Germany’s game, winning the ball and setting counterattacks in motion. Started the tournament on the bench due to fitness issues but is now back in the starting line-up.
Sami Khedira: Like Schweinsteiger, Khedira took time to get into the tournament after missing six months with a knee injury. Has improved from game to game and played his best match in the 7-1 win over Brazil, scoring a goal. A big physical presence in the midfield with leadership qualities.
Mesut Ozil: Has had a quiet tournament so far. Ozil has been struggling to find form the entire second half of the season and has not been able to provide the spark that had been expected. Probably Germany’s best passer when in form. The playmaker has a sweet touch and good vision but can drop under the radar during a game.
Toni Kroos: Probably Germany’s most consistent player at the tournament. Kroos covers a huge distance during a match, returning to help the defence and leading the attack. He is a major factor in Germany’s quick transition and can shoot with both feet. He delivers most free kicks and corners and played a role in the first four goals against Brazil, while scoring twice himself.
Thomas Mueller: Germany’s leading scorer with five goals and its most dangerous forward, with unpredictable running patterns and opportunistic finishing. Has equalled his goal total from 2010, when he was the tournament’s joint top scorer with five. Has moved nominally to the right wing since the return of Miroslav Klose to the centre.
Miroslav Klose: The 36-year-old veteran began the tournament on the bench as Germany played with a “false nine” formation. But he is back in the starting line-up as the only true striker and notched his record 16th career World Cup goal against Brazil. Valued for unselfish play and passing skill in addition to his goals. Germany’s all-time leading scorer with 71 goals.
Andre Schuerrle: The speedy winger is usually the first option off the bench. He scored with a backheel against Algeria and struck twice against Brazil. Has moved past Lukas Podolski in the picking order. With his speed, Schuerrle is a big threat on counterattacks. Has a powerful shot. Would be a starter on many teams, except that Germany has so many talented attacking midfielders.
Mario Goetze: One of Germany’s most promising players, but often phlegmatic. Goetze has failed to shine in Brazil. He was sent to the bench when Germany reverted to the true striker formation. His deft passing, quickness of foot and the ability to score can be an asset, especially in the late stages of an intense match.
Per Mertesacker: Has lost his place in the back four following a shoddy performance against Algeria and the return of Lahm from the midfield to the defence. Slow, but big and good in the air, Mertesacker remains an option if any of the defenders get hurt in the final.