Ozil, Gotze & Neuer already on the plane, Howedes & Boateng 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

Although Euro 2012 is still three months away, and the main focus currently lies on the various domestic and European competitions, the key preparations for Poland-Ukraine are well underway.

Qualified nations only have two or three remaining friendlies before the tournament 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, Netherlands, Portugal 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.

Since November, when we first presented a list of players who could make it to the European Championship, the situation of a number of players has changed. 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
Bernd Leno
Bayer Leverkusen
Marc-Andre ter Stegen Monchengladbach

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 in goal for the Germans.

For Neuer there will be two back-ups, almost surely Tim Wiese and Ron-Robert Zieler. Although neither substitute has won a game between the sticks, Low is not expected to blood any of Germany's young talents before this summer's tournament. The only potential alternative with any international experience, Rene Adler, is now definitely out of the running after failing to move away from Leverkusen in the winter, where he is now a reserve.

Should one of Neuer, Wiese or Zieler be unavailable for selection, Low will need a replacement. The most likely considerations are Bernd Leno and Marc-Andre ter Stegen, although the Leverkusen man has an edge due to his experience this season in the Champions League.

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

As captain, Philipp Lahm is an absolute lock-in for the left-back position. Per Mertesacker is almost certain as well, assuming he recovers from his ankle injury ahead of the tournament as he anticipates: even if he is only able to feature as a substitute, his experience is vital to Low.

Having vied against one another in the past for a role alongside Mertesacker, there is a real likelihood that Holger Badstuber and Mats Hummels will be used as the trainer's first-choice central defensive pairing. In any case, both will be selected in Low's 23-man squad. Jerome Boateng is also in consideration for a central defensive role, having featured there against Ukraine in November, and for the second half of Wednesday's 2-1 loss to France.

The role of right-back remains heavily contested between Boateng and Benedikt Howedes, neither of whom particularly impressed against les Bleus with each having played in the role for 45 minutes. Christian Trasch could be a second back-up, and his ability to double as a midfielder is an asset, but the player's poor form this season could see him dropped ahead of the tournament.

There remains a need for a back-up to Lahm on the left, and either Dennis Aogo or Marcel Schmelzer will get the nod. After the France game, in which the Hamburg defender struggled throughout the 90 minutes, Schmelzer is likely to be considered again at some point.

It will require injuries for any other defender to be called to Low's squad, but anything can happen between now and June. Heiko Westermann could earn a call-up in the unlikely event that there are several absentees in Low's established defence. Arne Friedrich is certainly out of contention, having been without a club since September, and Andreas Beck, Stefan Reinartz, and Philipp Wollscheid have not done enough in recent months to merit Low's consideration.

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

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

Beyond the most obvious inclusions, there are many question marks. Depending on the availability of others, there may be room for only one of the Bender twins. Sven has also had a good season, even if it is one that has been marred by injuries, and might be an undeniable choice if Dortmund win the Bundesliga title. Lars, meanwhile, has been in fine form for most of the season, and his versatility and quality especially in recent weeks give him an edge. However, he will have to spend more time integrating into the German national team set-up if he is to earn playing-minutes.

Providing competition for the Benders for a role in defensive midfield is Simon Rolfes. The Leverkusen man has not always been a starter at club level, but offers experience, and his omission from the France game suggests his days as a Germany international may be numbered.

Other previous call-ups, including Lewis Holtby, Ilkay Gundogan, and Sebastian Rudy, are unlikely to be selected as members of a very competitive German midfield. The Schalke man has the best odds, but an injury has curbed his ability to make an appeal for a spot ahead of Germany's more established midfielders. In all likelihood, Holtby, Gundogan, Rudy, and Moritz Leitner will continue operating with the youth teams team ahead of the Under-21 Euros in 2013.

Finally, Michael Ballack is absolutely out of contention for a spot. A few months ago, there was a very slight chance he would be brought to Poland and Ukraine for a swansong. However, the player still has not made amends with Joachim Low following his dismissal as captain, and after a row with the Leverkusen management, he may never play again in the Bundesliga.

Mario Gomez
Bayern Munich
Miroslav Klose
Thomas Muller
Bayern Munich
Lukas Podolski
Andre Schurrle Leverkusen
Marco Reus Monchengladbach
Kevin Grosskreutz
Mike Hanke Monchengladbach
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 has put his continued faith in Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez, and both have delivered for club and country this season.

The role of third-choice centre forward remains in question, however. Previously, Cacau had little competition, but the Stuttgart man has not had the best of seasons, while Mike Hanke has played an integral role in Gladbach's surprise rise to the top tier of the Bundesliga table. And given the similarities between Low's tactics and those of Lucien Favre at Gladbach, the 28-year-old has a real chance to earn his first call-up to the German national team since 2007. To his credit, though, Cacau was the only man to score for Germany against France on Wednesday, and his strike will surely raise his stock in Low's eyes.

On the flanks, Lukas Podolski and Thomas Muller are definite starters. The latter has struggled at Bayern this season, but his form for Germany never disappoints, and he is now a cornerstone of the team.

A few months ago, Andre Schurrle was a shoe-in for the role of back-up winger. However, in spite of the Leverkusen man's fine goal-scoring record for country, his poor form for club could open the door for Marco Reus, who has had a phenomenal season. Gotze as well could be used on the wing, and will certainly provide competition.

Both Schurrle and Reus started against France, and had mixed results. The Leverkusen man was forced to leave the pitch early due to a broken nose. The Gladbach star was arguably Germany's most dangerous threat in the first half, but when he moved to the left flank after the break, his impact was limited. He still has some work to do in order to fully integrate into the team: neither Muller nor Podolski should feel threatened just yet.

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