They may not be the force of old, but it takes a brave punter to write off Germany’s chances heading into any major tournament.
In fact, Die Mannschaft have reached the semi-final in the last two European Championships, and were the runners-up before that back in 2008. Since their first appearance back in 1972, the Germans have won three of the 12 tournaments played, a rate of one in every four.
Drawn in the “Group of Death” alongside reigning champions Portugal, world champions France and an in-form Hungary, they will have to do it the hard way if they want to win their first Euros since 1996.
Joachim Low is to step down as manager after the Euros and will be replaced by Hansi Flick. He will be desperate to end his 15 years on a high with the memory of the 2018 World Cup campaign still fresh in the memory. Heading into the tournament as one of the favourites after winning all of their ten qualifying games, conceding just four goals, Germany were dumped out at the group stage after suffering humiliating defeats to South Korea and Mexico.
Since then, the 61-year-old has overhauled the national squad with a focus on promoting youth. Two players who will be central to the chances of the four-time world champions will be two Chelsea boys in Timo Werner and Kai Havertz.
Werner arrived at Stamford Bridge with high expectations, and while his return of six Premier League goals has hardly set the world alight, his pace in behind the last line of defence is central to the way the newly crowned champions of Europe play under Thomas Tuchel.
Low, who has only selected three forwards (two if you class Serge Gnabry as a winger) for this summer’s championships, will want to adopt similar tactics to ensure his outfit don’t crash out at the group stage for the second tournament running.
With 15 goals in 35 appearances, Werner’s goal return for Germany is more in sync with the 95 in 159 that he managed at RB Leipzig, but the 25-year-old does enter this summer with a point to prove on the international stage. He failed to find the net in the Russia World Cup three years ago and will be only too aware that he needs to produce at a major tournament to be considered as a German great.
Havertz will still be flying high after his first half strike in the Champions League final proved to be the difference as Chelsea frustrated Manchester City on their way to being crowned kings of Europe for the second time. Under Tuchel in the second half of the season, Chelsea’s £72m record signing started to prove his worth and finished the campaign in heroic fashion.
The experience of the recalled Mats Hummels and Thomas Muller will be vital, with Joshua Kimmich and Ilkay Gundogan a match for any midfield partnership in the competition. Followers of the Premier League will be only too aware of the standout attributes of Gundogan, who looked on course to be named the PFA Player of the Year before Pep Guardiola’s rotation saw his numbers dip a little.
In Kimmich, Germany possess one of the finest midfield players in world football. His love for a strong tackle, coupled with his ability to open a defence with a single pass make him the complete player in his position. Manuel Neuer has silenced his doubters in the time that has passed since that disappointing 2018 campaign, keeping 24 Bundesliga clean sheets since the beginning of last season. Add in the likes of Toni Kroos, Leroy Sane and Serge Gnabry, and those dismissing Germany’s chances at odds of 15/2 may soon be eating their words.
Could Low go out on a high? Don’t bet against it.