Whilst German’s 3-0 win over Norway in the 2018 World Cup qualifier on Sunday may not have been a tournament per se, their notoriousness for getting the job done was evident yet again.
Unconvincing in the friendly against Finland, the nation seemed more interested in focusing on Bastian Schweinsteiger’s final game for Die Mannschaft than making a concerted effort to sweep the Finns aside.
However, the qualifier demonstrated how Joachim Löw has been prudent in his squad selections ever since their 2014 World Cup glory. Joshua Kimmich finally seems to be the answer at right-back, with the likes of Sebastian Rudy or Emre Can never fully convincing.
Despite Pep Guardiola’s tutorage last season to mould him into a centre-back, the Bayern Munich man seems at home on the right, and never thought twice about adding an extra dimension to Germany’s right-hand side, which resulted in his first goal for the national team against Finland.
Of all the high profile retirements, Philipp Lahm’s worried fans the most. Germany had Thomas Müller to replace Miroslav Klose, Toni Kroos for Schweinsteiger, Mats Hummels and Jérôme Boateng for Per Mertesacker. Kimmich’s emergence has therefore settled numerous nerves within the camp.
Nevertheless, Marco Reus and Mario Götze, those originally touted to succeed the older generation, have somewhat fallen by the wayside. Reus’ seemingly perpetual stint on the sidelines has seen Julian Draxler establish himself on the left wing, whilst Karim Bellarabi and Max Meyer are also threatening to usurp the Dortmund man.
His fellow club teammate Götze never really found his feet at Bayern Munich, and an historic World Cup winning goal aside, seems disorientated within Löw’s current set-up. Despite Löw’s insistence on deploying him in the false nine position, his movement often does not complement the creativity of Mesut Özil, and his composure in front of goal in the friendly left a lot to be desired.
What Götze lacks upfront however is commensurate to what Müller brought to the party against Norway. Very little description is needed to portray the gangly, often awkward looking striker, but his qualities in front of goal are axiomatic. The Raumdeuter was exactly that for his second goal against the Norwegians, heading in after an intelligent run.
However, the dearth of strikers available to Löw has undoubtedly provided a conundrum within the setup. Müller’s well-noted drought in European Championships has left many wondering whether the Germans have enough goals in the team to cover any loss of form the 26-year-old may suffer from.
And herein lies Die Mannschaft’s dilemma, Müller has become Germany’s most valuable asset by default. Boateng and Hummels are covered by Benedikt Höwedes and Shkodran Mustafi. Özil by Draxler and Götze. The new captain Manuel Neuer’s form has barely given a look in to Marc André ter Stegen or Bernd Leno.
Müller has no comparable rival, and if Germany do not discover someone before Russia, they may lose their valuable crown.