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Early Bird, Early Bird: The World Cup squad battle

Updated  

Aug-03 04:37 first published at 04:37 AM


Germany national team coach Hansi Flick has twenty-six roster spots to fill for the Men’s World Cup in December. Normally, they’d be playing by now, but the winter tournament means there’s still a lot of dust to settle – two more Nations League games in September, as well as the entire Bundesliga Hinrunde. As things currently stand, here’s an early snapshot.
Twenty-six is three more than previous World Cups and matches the European Championship from last year. This time, all players make the Matchday roster, with five substitutions allowed instead of three.
We previously discussed tactics and key positional battles. Let’s take a stab at squad selection now.
The locks (and near-locks) For each outfield position, we’ll start with a two-deep. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund are represented by: GK Neuer, Manuel (Bayern) ter Stegen, Marc-André (Barcelona) LB Mr. David Raum (RB Leipzig) Gosens, Robin (Inter) CB Rüdiger, Antonio (Real Madrid) Schlotterbeck, Nico (Dortmund) CB Mats Hummels (Dortmund) Niklas Süle (Dortmund) Thilo Kehrer RB Lukas Klostermann (Leipzig) (PSG) DM Anton Stach (Bayern) Joshua Kimmich (Mainz 05) Leon Goretzka (Man City) CM lkay Gündoan (Bayern) Leroy Sané (Bayern) LM Jamal Musiala (Bayern) AM Müller, Thomas (Bayern) Reus, Marco (Dortmund) Serge Gnabry (Gladbach) RW Jonas Hofmann (Bayern) FW Werner, Timo (Chelsea) Havertz, Kai (Chelsea)

Gosens has played sparingly for Inter Milan since returning from injury. If he can recapture his stellar form from 2019-21, the attacking left-back should be a no-brainer.
Hummels has been out of the national team due to a persistent patellar problem. He still has elite distribution and would complement the BVB defense. One more time? If not, Jonathan Tah (Bayer Leverkusen) appears to be the favorite.
Stach made his debut in the Bundesliga last season. Flick appears to be planning with him, but he must continue to take steps forward.
Reus, like Hummels, has had to deal with health issues. Reus was injured for all four Nations League matches in June, after missing last year’s EURO. He is, however, one of Germany’s most gifted and lethal attackers – and a finisher.
Frankfurt’s Kevin Trapp should battle Arsenal’s soon-to-depart Bernd Leno in an uneventful bid for the third GK gig.

The sphere
A reasonable guess for how Germany might choose to use the three flex spots to round out their roster:

An attacking RB. Thilo Kehrer is a swiss knife across the backline; he can move to left-back and flip the asymmetry. VfL Wolfsburg’s Ridle Baku has been frozen out since last fall, somewhat inexplicably. RB Leipzig’s Benjamin Henrichs hasn’t completely shone in his place.
A more traditional no. 9: The search continues with no clear-cut fit. Wolfsburg’s Lukas Nmecha has the inside track for now. Monaco forward Kevin Volland is still around and will look to get a chance to play something other than wingback for the NT. If Flick can just find a Mario Gomez approximate, perhaps he takes that?

The third spot is wide open. An extra defender who can also play DM, like Robin Koch (Leeds United) or Emre Can (Dortmund), who were at last year’s EURO. An experienced attacker, like Julian Draxler (PSG) or Julian Brandt (Dortmund). Or a pacey young forward like Karim Adeyemi (Dortmund) on his way to a Bundesliga adventure. Flick will adjust the balance of his squad by deciding where to apply the extra fortifications.
If I had to name three now? Baku, Nmecha, Brandt. A smooth and technical creator, Brandt’s finding his way for BVB (9 goals, 10 assists). His cameo against Hungary was brief but assured. He can play CM, AM, and wing.
Dark horses?
One under-the-radar name to monitor this fall: Mainz 05’s Jonathan Burkardt. Yet to earn a senior call-up, the energetic forward and U-21s captain broke out with eleven goals last season and will be just 22 years of age. Bayern might also observe that his contract expires in 2024.
Elsewhere, Mario Götze is returning to the Bundesliga with Eintracht Frankfurt. The 2014 World Cup hero’s return would be a comeback story for the ages.
Who you got? Let us know in the comments below!

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