Saturday, 31 July 2010

The "What ifs?" of Germany's World Cup Campaign

This was posted on my Posterous account like 2 weeks ago, don't accuse of being late in posting something World Cup-related. I'm just re-posting what I wrote there.

The FIFA World Cup is over, and Germany's young squad missed out to eventual champions Spain in the semifinals, and ended up 3rd overall after winnign against Uruguay. Despite a great squad and performance by young players, it took everyone away from the thought that most of their key-players were actually missing from the tournament. And their path to the Semi-finals didn't come with ease. I would just like to imagine the "What ifs?"  of this German squad and would've happened.

Fig 1. Robert Enke
First of the problems came way before the World Cup happened where Robert Enke - Germany's 1st choice Goalkeeper - attempted suicide back in November 2009. His replacement the young and promising Rene Adler declared he would not take part in the upcoming World Cup to undergo a surgery for his rib injury a month before the World Cup began. So up stepped another promising Goalkeeper in Manuel Neuer who played magnificently in the World Cup. But here comes the question, "What if Robert Enke didn't die and what if Rene Adler didn't get injured?". Maybe and just maybe, Germany wouldn't concede that goal against Serbia which cost them the game, or maybe the goal from Carles Puyol in the semis.



Fig 2. Heiko Westermann
Next comes the defence problems. Schalke defender Heiko Westermann was scheduled to be a key player in the German's defence to pair up with Per Mertesacker but broke his foot in the last warmup game before the World Cup. Arne Friedrich who was scheduled to play as rightback was then converted as Westermann's replacement and playing well with a goal to add in the competition. Westermann's injury forced Phillip Lahm to switch sides from Leftback to Rightback and leaving young players in Holger Badstuber and Jerome Boateng sharing roles as back-up left-back. My question here is , "What if Heiko Westermann didn't get injured?". Will either Badstuber or Boateng be even called-up to the national squad? if they did, would they get a minute on the pitch? Friedrich was great in teh heart of the German defence but he may have had a better performance should he had played in his natural position as rightback.

Fig 3. Michael Ballack
Then the centrepiece of them all, the captaincy. First choice captain Michael Ballack injured his ankle in his last game as a Chelsea player against Portsmouth in the FA Cup final where his opponent Kevin-Prince Boateng tackled late on him causing Ballack to miss the World Cup. Boateng incidentally, is Jerome Boateng's brother whom both played for Germany in youth levels. Kevin-Prince though decided to play for Ghana and help their campaign in the World Cup. Michael Ballack's place however, was replaced by Stuttgart midfielder Sami Khedira and his captaincy fell to Phillip Lahm's arms, while his proud #13 shirt was worn by young striker Thomas Muller. Khedira had a blast in the World Cup which lead interest from Real Madrid and Manchester United while Phillip Lahm lead the team by example, and Thomas Muller snatching the Golden Boot and Best young player. The question that fits here is, "What if Michael Ballack didn't lose his captaincy because of Kevin-Prince Boateng's late tackle?" who knows Ballack wouldve played better than Khedira would, and could've lead the team to even the World Cup Final.





Fig 4. Miroslav Klose  & Lukas Podolski
Strikers selection also became an issue. Usual choices Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose have both flopped in the league, while Cacau is naturally a Brazilian who has a German citizenship. That leaves the inform strikers of last season's Bundesliga are Stefan Keissling, Kevin Kuranyi and youngster Thomas Muller. To the surprise of everyone Podolski and Klose were chosen after all following a horrid season and Cacau too added to the squad. Kevin Kuranyi earlier in the year had a bust-up with Germany head coach Joachim Low so he wouldn't be called up, which gives Thomas Muller a chance to be part of the squad including Keissling and Spanish-born Mario Gomez in the squad as well. Media and fans criticized Low's selection policy as being "too trustworthy of Podolski and Klose". But as it turned out, Klose and Podolski both had great tournaments with Klose scoring 4 and Podolski scoring 2. Thomas Muller scored 5 and became topscorer of the worldcup, while Cacau managed to score one himself. The questions now are, "What if Miroslav Klose, Lukas Podolski and Thomas Muller was never called-up to the National team? and what if Cacau never took Germany citizenship?". Certainly things would have been very different.

Fig 5. Lampard's shot crossing the line
Then came that game against England in the round of 16. Germany took the lead with goals from Podolski and Klose but England narrowed the gap with a Matthew Upson header to make the game 2-1 to Deutschland. Moments after Upson scored, Frank Lampard attempted a long range shot which bounced off under the crossbar which England fans thought that it crossed the goal-line for an equalizer, but referee Jorge Larrionda and his assistants ruled that it did not pass the line although replays showed that it passed the line by quite a margin. England never got back into the game and concede a further 2 goals from a double by Thomas Muller and lost 1-4. Next question would be, "What if Frank Lampard's goal was given?" England could have gone back into the match and fight until the death if the scores were tied again, but yet again the German side that day was unstoppable.

Fig 6. Thomas Muller
Thomas Muller's red hot form did not stop there as he scored and helped Germany thump Argentina 4-0 but got his second yellow card of the tournament for a challenge which couldve been avoided and misses the Semifinals against Spain because of this. Germany lost that game because they couldnt counter as much as they wouldve liked against a stubborn Spanish defence line probably because of a certain missing link on the right side of attack in Muller. Spain won the semifinals - and eventually the World Cup - with a 1-0 scoreline. Here comes the last question, "What would've happened if Thomas Muller actually played in the semifinals?". I don't know if he would've made a significant impact considering how great Spain's defence is, but you can't stop the writer from wondering...

Now to recap them all, "What if all those never happened? could Germany got even closer to winning the World Cup?" They certainly have excelled from their shortages, but it goes to wonder what if they didn't have their key absentees...

1 comment:

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