Next in our series looking ahead to World Cup starting lineups, we are focusing on a nation that has enjoyed arguably the greatest strides in club level in recent years, and whose Champions League clubs occupies three of the four finalist spots in the two years prior to this year’s all-Madrid final, and that nation is Germany. It would seem highly unlikely that any fantasy football managers would not look at Joachin Low’s squad for at least some of the spine to their team in our new World Cup game, and so let’s see which players look likely to start when their Brazil campaign kicks off against Portugal on Monday 16th June.
The German national side have been big advocates of the 4-2-3-1 formation for years now, and so we will assume this is the shape of Low’s team moving into the big kickoff, though obviously if this does not prove to be their starting formation the names on the teamsheet are likely to vary. When looking at the squad overall, the most difficult aspect to choose from for any fantasy football manager ahead of time would be their attacking combination, but let’s give it a go.
In the sticks, Manuel Neuer will almost certainly get the starting berth save for any disasters ahead of the clash with Portugal. The 28-year-old has 45 caps to his name since making his senior international debut five years ago, and has had the best season domestically of all the stoppers available at Low’s disposal. His 430 points have been garnered through 15 clean sheets – not a bad total at all considering his 31 appearances, equating to almost one clean sheet in every two games. In the 16 games in which he did concede for Bayern Munich, only 20 shots escaped his grasp and went in – making Neuer right up there with the finest goalkeepers to feature at this summer’s edition of the biggest tournament in football. He has also been handed the no.1 shirt number, so this one seems a given.
His deputies, Roman Weidenfeller of Borussia Dortmund and Ron-Robert Zieler of Hannover 96, have 230 and 15 points respectively, so expect Weidenfeller to assume the role as Neuer’s direct understudy, with Zieler there as third choice.
In front of Neuer, Philipp Lahm looks a shoe-in for one of the full-back slots, and indeed has had a massively successful season for Bayern Munich. Lahm has finished the last four international tournaments with a spot in that respective campaign’s Team of the Tournament, and his 300 domestic points with Bayern mean his place seems pretty assured. His long-time international defensive team-mate, Arsenal star Per Mertesacker, also seems a pretty good bet for first team football right from the off, and fantasy managers far and wide would be foolish to not at least give the 6ft 6in rock some consideration. He has 245 points with Arsenal this season, giving him a decent points-to-value ratio of 32.7.
Jerome Boateng of Munich looks like a good shout get a start, possibly at full-back, and his 255 points show that he has had a slightly better season that Mertesacker, at least fantasy points-wise, so get on the 25-year-old to start against Portugal. Interestingly, he could also well feature when the Germans take on Ghana – a side that features Boateng’s brother, Kevin-Prince.
Mats Hummels looks like the man who could partner Mertesacker in the middle of defence. The 25-year-old already has 30 caps to his name, and has had a good season with Borussia Dortmund. He ended the campaign with 165 points, which isn’t too bad given his €7.50m asking price in the world cup game. He scored twice and featured in nine clean sheets this season, so with his experience and good form he seems a likely candidate.
Looking at the midfield now, we are looking for two names in the middle of the park. Perhaps Sami Khedira could be a candidate, but he has featured only 13 times for Real Madrid this season – earning 20 points in the process. For all he is one of the finest midfielders around, the World Cup is not coming on the back of his best domestic season, but his passing is arguably what defines his standard as a footballer – his distribution is both safe defensively, and lethal when going forward. There may be a place for him alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger, who seems one of the safest bets around to get a place in the starting eleven.
In the attacking midfield roles, things start to get very tricky to predict. The German national side has such a vast quantity of talent to choose from, and while many will surely lament that the kind of selection headache that faces Low is one many managers would be glad to have, it won’t make the decision making process any easier for the 54-year-old.
Mario Gotze, Julian Draxler, Mesut Ozil, Lukas Podolski, Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos, André Schürrle – all names that could feature, and so choosing a “likely” starting lineup becomes more of a mix-and-match affair. Let’s first look at the man who will take on the mantle as the out-and-out striker.
Miroslav Klose, as the only recognised striker in the squad, looks like the man for this role. The 36-year-old has proven a legendary figure in a German shirt, with 69 goals from 132 games. He looks like a good shout to get a starting berth, and 150 points to his name in our fantasy competition this season goes to show that he is still capable of performing at the highest level.
Now, let’s move back to the players who will be supporting him. Due to the options, it may be pertinent to apply the EuroFantasyLeague.com seasonal performances for this selection job – and when looking at this, there are three very clear winners for those three final spots.
Bayern Munich midfielder Thomas Müller has had comfortably the best season of the names mentioned above, with a whopping 500 points managing to give him a points-to-value ratio of 52.6 – a great stat considering his asky €14.50m price tag. He will get a start – he has 49 caps already despite being only 24, and has 165 appearances for Bayern since making his debut around six years ago.
His team-mate, Mario Götze, could fill out the opposite attacking flank. Götze has earned 400 points with a value of €9.50m, and so he could well be a name that many fantasy managers look to for their starting lineup – 10 goals from 27 appearances have helped that points total, but with eight assists as well he is surely one of the keys to the German attacking strength.
Former Real Madrid star Mesut Özil has had a pretty successful first season in England with Arsenal, with 330 points largely garnered through nine assists and five goals scored. He will surely be at the forefront of Low’s mind when it comes to his tactical approach to the Portugal game, so go for the Gunners’ record signing to get his place as well.