No footballer is ever content with a role on the bench. If he works hard and proves himself on the pitch, he can only feel frustrated not to be selected. With a deep squad, the stakes are especially great; fan and media expectations are high, and every player wants time. Only 11 can start, however, and it takes an exceptional coach to manage the egos of his star players.
Heading into Euro 2012, Joachim Low had what could only be described as an embarrassment of riches in his 23-man squad.
Three of his starters - Lukas Podolski, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm - were in the prime of their careers and approaching 100 caps. Arguably the Bundesliga's best player, Marco Reus, was a substitute. Either the world's most prolific centre-forward, Mario Gomez, or the second-highest goalscorer in German history, Miroslav Klose, would have to be benched.
|GERMANY V GREECE MATCH STATS
Shots on goal
Podolski, days after celebrating a century of caps against Denmark with a goal, swallowed his pride on Friday as he helped his replacement in the starting line-up against Greece, Andre Schurrle, complete warm-up exercises.
When Marco Reus volleyed home Germany's fourth goal to put the result beyond doubt, Thomas Muller - whose role on the right wing was filled by the new Dortmund signing - was among the first to congratulate his team-mate.
There was plenty of room for disharmony after the match. Gomez, the joint top-scorer at the tournament, had been benched along with proven stars Podolski and Muller.
Lars Bender, who scored the winner in the recent match against Denmark, did not play a single minute. But in the post-match media mixed zone, both Gomez and Podolski were in good spirits, with the Bayern Munich man yielding to his coach's judgment.
"I think every player wants to play all the time. But you could see today, the coach can bring on different players and it works," Gomez told Goal.com.
"It's very, very nice for those players that they could play against Greece, as they had nothing to smile about in the first three games.
"Because the Greeks were expected to play very defensively, I had to sit on the bench. We have enough players who have played very little or not at all, and they had the strength in them to win this game."
Gomez's attitude is reflected throughout the German camp, and speaks volumes of Low's regard among his players.
Other potentially great national teams have suffered complete collapses due to disharmony in the squad; one needs to look back only a few days to see how an impressive roster of Dutch footballers went from tournament favourites to Group B losers, failing to earn a single point from their three games.
The apathy of Gregory van der Wiel, the arrogance of Robin van Persie and Ibrahim Afellay, the sulking of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Rafael van der Vaart, and the isolation of Arjen Robben had a toxic effect that spelled demise for Oranje.
It could have been the same for Germany, but having been on the cusp of winning a major international championship for so many years, and with today's squad better than any in well over a decade, Low's men are hungrier than ever to see their talent produce a trophy.
They seem to have unshakable trust in the judgment of Low, whose selections have not yet let them down. And even after an individually poor match, the players are quick to praise their team-mates. Bastian Schweinsteiger had nothing to say to the media after the Greece win, but gave Reus a hearty pat on the back after the forward notched his first competitive goal as a Germany international.
There are, of course, exceptions, and not everything is perfect in the Germany squad. After each game, Toni Kroos has walked straight through the mixed zone without a word, boarding the team bus long before any of his team-mates. The 22-year-old has seen his game time limited to a few appearances as a substitute, and even though he warmed up, he went unused altogether in the Greece match.
At the same time, it is important to note that Kroos' frustration is contained. It has not spread, and Low insists that the player - among many other unused substitutes - is responding in a positive way.
"They're all behaving appropriately, I see a real desire to play," he said.
With their record-breaking 15th consecutive win in competitive play, Germany continue to steamroll opponents, and now enter a semi-final against either England or Italy. Low has yet to comment on whether he will stick with the same line-up or again make changes, although there are still five days for players to prove themselves in training. Even the substitutes might admit that whichever XI he selects, it will be the right one.