Ozil & Schweinsteiger already on the plane, the Bender twins fighting for a ticket - The 23 players Germany may be taking to Euro 2012

Goal.com breaks down the squads the leading contenders for next year's tournament are likely to take to Poland and Ukraine. In this feature, we look at Joachim Low's side
By Clark Whitney | German Football Editor

Euro 2012 may still be seven months away, but, with group qualification over and both the play-offs and the draw for the finals to be completed in the next few weeks, the key preparations for Poland-Ukraine are well underway.

Qualified nations only have a handful of friendlies remaining before the competition kicks off on June 8 in Warsaw, and each coach will already know the majority of the squad he wishes to take.

Goal.com thus breaks down how Euro 2012's top nations - England, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain - are likely to go about selecting their 23-player rosters.

We move through each positional department - goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and attackers - and divide the candidates into 'definites', 'probables' and 'possibles'. Definites are those who are pillars of the team, indispensable and irreplaceable stars who will only miss out on the finals in the most extraordinary of circumstances, such as serious injury. For example, Xavi of Spain or Gianluigi Buffon of Italy. Probables are those who are likely to go, but are not so indispensable that they are immune to being cut. Possibles are all the players who are fighting for the last places in the squad that are yet to be determined. Underneath these listed candidates, we then explain in detail the reason for our choices.

Below is a full rundown of how Germany's 23 places could be taken.

Manuel Neuer
Bayern Munich
Tim Wiese
Werder Bremen
Ron-Robert Zieler
Rene Adler
Bayer Leverkusen

Since taking over the role of starting goalkeeper in May of 2010, Manuel Neuer has not looked back. He is widely regarded as the world's best in his position and is an absolute definite between the posts.

For Neuer there will be two back-ups, and neither is 100 per cent assured of his role. At the moment, Tim Wiese and Ron-Robert Zieler are Joachim Low's favourite pair. Both have had their lapses on occasion, though, and either could be overtaken by Rene Adler, who was No. 1 just 18 months ago and will return from injury in January.

Beyond Adler, there is the experienced Michael Rensing, but for him to be nominated, there would have to be several withdrawals among Low's favoured stoppers. Up-and-coming prospects including Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Kevin Trapp, Oliver Baumann, and Bernd Leno are highly unlikely to be called up due to their relative inexperience, especially at the highest level. Their time will undoubtedly come, but not before Euro 2012.

Holger Badstuber
Bayern Munich
Philipp Lahm
Bayern Munich
Mats Hummels
Per Mertesacker Arsenal
Jerome Boateng
Bayern Munich
Benedikt Howedes
Dennis Aogo Hamburg
Marcel Schmelzer
Christian Trasch Wolfsburg

As captain, Philipp Lahm is an absolute lock-in for the left-back position. Per Mertesacker, too, will definitely be in the squad, even if as a back-up: his experience at the very least is important to Low.

Holger Badstuber and Mats Hummels will in all likelihood be in a competition for a role alongside Mertesacker until the day the tournament begins, but both will make Low's 23-man squad. Three centre-backs at least are needed, and Badstuber, Hummels, and Mertesacker are certain to be among them.

The right-back position remains a problem point for Germany, and is uncertain. Jerome Boateng and Benedikt Howedes, who will double as cover in central defence, will continue to duel for a starting role. However, it is not 100 per cent certain that both will be named in Low's squad. Christian Trasch has become more of an outsider for a defensive role, but could be included for his versatility and ability to play in midfield.

Behind Lahm on the left, one of Dennis Aogo and Marcel Schmelzer will get the nod. Neither has been particularly impressive, and it appears that only one will be invited to the Euros. Aogo, for now, is in better standing with Low, but ultimately form will play a big role in which left-back is selected.

There are many others who have been called up in the past, but are well down the list of preferred players. Arne Friedrich no longer has a club team and cannot be considered in the running. Heiko Westermann, Andreas Beck, and Stefan Reinartz are all decent players, but would be fifth choice or lower. Philipp Wollscheid, meanwhile, is one for the future, but is unlikely to be trusted by Low given his lack of experience in the youth national teams or at a high level for Nurnberg.

Mario Gotze
Sami Khedira
Real Madrid
Toni Kroos
Bayern Munich
Mesut Ozil
Real Madrid
Bastian Schweinsteiger
Bayern Munich
Lars Bender
Michael Ballack
Sven Bender Dortmund
Lewis Holtby Schalke
Simon Rolfes Leverkusen

It would not be a Germany team without its core: Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mesut Ozil, heroes of the 2010 World Cup side, need no introduction. Mario Gotze has solidified his role as Ozil's back-up in the playmaking role, and Low has hailed Kroos as a critical component to the 4-1-4-1 system with which he has experimented in recent months. Sami Khedira, as well, appears a certain call-up given his experience in the team and status as a Real Madrid star.

Beyond the core, there are many question marks. There will, in all likelihood, be room for only one of the Bender twins, and at the moment, Lars has a slight edge due to his versatility. Sven, though, has discovered his offensive qualities as of late and will put pressure on his brother. One or the other is almost certainly a must-have for Low, given that in Schweinsteiger and Khedira he only has two other 'No. 6'-type players.

Following his horror show against Poland in September, as well as his uncertain role at club level, Simon Rolfes appears to have slipped behind the Benders as back-up 'destroyer.'

There is a chance that Lewis Holtby will be called up, but he (as well as Sebastian Rudy, Ilkay Gundogan and Moritz Leitner) will most likely be with the Under-21 national team until after the 2013 Under-21 European Championship. There simply is too much depth available to Low for them to become serious options in the coming months. As it stands, Low prefers to shift Kroos into Schweinsteiger's defensive role rather than bring in a new face.

Finally, Michael Ballack has a slight chance of making one last tournament appearance, but it would require that he both maintain his form and repair his relationship with Low. He has a veritable mountain to climb, both in sporting and social terms, but the veteran has done some amazing things in the past, and he just might be given a proper farewell.

Mario Gomez
Bayern Munich
Miroslav Klose
Thomas Muller
Bayern Munich
Lukas Podolski
Andre Schurrle Leverkusen
Marco Reus           
Cacau Stuttgart
Kevin Grosskreutz
Marcell Jansen Hamburg
Marko Marin
Werder Bremen
Stefan Kiessling Leverkusen

Perhaps the most settled area of the pitch for Low is the attack: the centre forward and two wingers. The trainer revealed in September that Mario Gomez and Miroslav Klose are on the same level in his eyes, and that cannot have changed given the remarkable form each has demonstrated in the opening months of the campaign. The pair have little competition, nor does their probable back-up, Cacau, who is head and shoulders above the likes of Stefan Kiessling and Patrick Helmes.

The only doubt for Cacau is that Low recently stated that should both Klose and Gomez be unavailable, Lukas Podolski and Andre Schurrle are, in addition to the Stuttgart man, possible options in the centre of attack.

On the flanks, Podolski and Thomas Muller are definites, having solidified their roles in previoustournaments. Schurrle is unlikely to earn a starting role ahead of Euro 2012, but is, nonetheless, a shoe-in as a substitute (Low could have used his services when Muller was suspended for the 2010 World Cup semi-final against Spain).

Marco Reus has started the club campaign in blistering form and appears to be a secondary alternate winger, having been called up to Low's squad twice consecutively. He could be dropped, but it would require a massive resurgence of form from the likes of Kevin Grosskreutz or Marcell Jansen, neither of whom has been a part of Low's plans as of late.

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