There’s something rather perverse about an international break at the beginning of September. Almost like a teaser trailer for a Hollywood blockbuster, we’ve been given a tantalising glimpse of what is to come from a new club season before the monotony of international football rears its head – and it’s especially unwelcome given how unremarkable the 2016 European Championships were. Germany will still be stinging from their semi-final exit at the hands of France. Finland will still be hurting from the fact they didn’t qualify at all.
Germany aren’t very well disposed to friendly internationals at the moment either. Indeed, having won just two of their last seven it would appear they prefer the high stakes and intensity of competitive fixtures. The 2-0 defeat to France earlier in the summer was a bitter pill to swallow but not wholly unsurprising; die Mannschaft had been struggling to click into gear at the Euros with arguably only one performance genuinely worthy of note in an easy 3-0 win over Slovakia in the round of 16.
Still, rather that than Finland, whose recent results suggest they can’t win no matter how important the game is. Five games in 2016, no wins – a solitary draw away to Belgium proving to be their only highlight of the year. In fact the Finnish haven’t tasted victory since September last year when they scraped a 1-0 win at home to the Faroe Islands. So it’s not exactly promising for Hans Backe’s men.
Joachim Löw’s first post-Euros national squad features many of the faces we became accustomed to in June and July, as well as some we most recently saw in August at the Olympics. Uncapped centre-half Niklas Süle has been drafted in after impressing in Rio, as have Max Meyer and Julian Brandt, who can boast one senior appearance each. Aside from that it’s business as usual, with the likes of Joshua Kimmich and Julian Weigl continuing their integration into Löw’s set-up, while skipper Bastian Schweinsteiger will make his final bow for the team in what is sure to be poignant finale to an illustrious international career.
For the visitors, there are a few thing to note regarding Backe’s squad. Their captain, Werder Bremen’s Niklas Moisander, looks set to earn a recall after not having appeared this calendar year, partly due to a three month layoff caused by an ankle injury sustained in April. Elsewhere, striker Joel Pohjanpalo will be returning to Borussia-Park after scoring for Bayer Leverkusen from the bench in their opening weekend Bundesliga defeat to Borussia Mönchengladbach. He, along with Teemu Pukki, Roman Eremenko and Kasper Hämäläinen will hope to provide the goal threat tomorrow night.
Germany (4-2-3-1): Manuel Neuer; Benedikt Höwedes, Shkodran Mustafi, Mats Hummels, Jonas Hector; Bastian Schweinsteiger, Sami Khedira; Thomas Müller, Mesut Özil, Julian Draxler; Mario Götze
Finland (5-3-2): Lukas Hradecky; Janne Saksela, Paulus Arajuuri, Niklas Moisander, Juhani Ojala, Jere Uronen; Markus Halsti, Alexander Ring, Kasper Hämäläinen; Roman Eremenko, Teemu Pukki
I don’t want to say it’s going to be a matter of ‘how many?’ for Germany, but it is. Despite their apathy for friendlies, this one should have some extra incentive for them; Schweinsteiger’s final game, preparation for the qualifier against Norway, the first match after a European Championship – there’s really no reason why Germany shouldn’t romp home in emphatic style, so I’ll go for 4-0 to the hosts.