It’s been a few glorious years for German youth teams, with the U-19 side claiming European honours in 2007 and the U-21’s taking first prize over the summer in Sweden. Goal.com looks at whether German manager Horst Hrubesch can work his magic again at the World U-20 Championship?
It has been an amazing time in recent years for German football, as the country has shaken off its undeserved image as being somewhat staid and conservative in its outlook in terms of youth football. Victories in recent seasons at several prestigious such as the 2008 Under-19 European Championship and the UEFA U-21 tournament have been underpinned by a willingness by the Bundesliga clubs to invest in youth and give young players a chance to shine in the first team if they are good enough.
Much of the credit for Germany’s recent significant improvement must also go to former international Matthias Sammer, who joined the German FA in 2006 as sporting director. The former Borussia Dortmund defender has a broad remit across the entirety of the youth teams, and can claim a major hand in the German development.
Qualification for this tournament was confirmed thanks to claiming victory at the European U-19 Championship in the Czech Republic just over 12 months ago. They beat Italy on that occasion, despite the handicap of having a man less then the Italians after Florian Jungwirth was sent off in the first half. Goals from Lars Bender, Richard Sukuta-Pasu and Timo Gebhart decided the tie decisively in Germany’s favour, qualifying them to the World Cup as winners of the European tournament.
A team to beat?
Germany’s tournament 12 months ago got off to the best possible start, beating defending European champions Spain 2-1. They completed the group stages with a 100 per cent record thanks to further victories over Bulgaria (3-0) and Hungary (2-1) to setup a semi-final meeting with hosts Czech Republic.
It took until a minute before the end of extra-time for the young German side to tilt the tie decisively their way, Sukuta-Pasu scoring to make it 2-1.
Then came the final against Italy, which the Germans convincingly won.
Not all plain sailing
As a result of their success, many of the players have gone onto become important members for their respective sides, but as a result of the timing of the tournament in the FIFA calendar, it would seem that Germany are perhaps a victim of their own success.
Like many of the European teams entering the tournament in Egypt, Germany’s participation has been hampered by teams refusing to let their youngest stars leave just as the Bundesliga season really gets going. As a result, many of the brightest prospects will not be travelling to North Africa. The biggest loss is €10 million-rated Savio Nsereko, who joined Fiorentina on loan from West Ham United but had a clause inserted into his contract stating that he isn’t permitted to join up with his team-mates for this tournament.
Players to Watch
However, there is still plenty of talent in the 21-man squad named by Horst Hrubesch. The undoubted stars of the team are the Bender twins, Lars and Sven, who last summer formed an integral part of the team in the Czech Republic whilst still under contract at 1860 Munich. They’ve now both moved into the Bundesliga, with Lars joining Bayer Leverkusen and Sven arriving at Borussia Dortmund for this season. Both are technically gifted on the ball and hard-working. They should both catch the eye in Egypt.
Richard Sukuta-Pasu may not sound very German, and he has Congolese roots, but his future lies very firmly with the German FA. Another under contact at Bayer Leverkusen, the lightening fast striker loves to run with the ball, seems to beat defenders with the greatest of ease and also has an eye for goal.
One player, who didn’t help claim the European title, but should represent a worthwhile addition to the squad is Lewis Holtby. He also has a foot in another camp, as his father is English. However, despite being an Everton fan, he is another prepared to commit his future to Germany. After catching the eye with Aachen in the 2.Bundesliga, Holtby has been snapped up by Schalke. The winger may be relatively small in stature, but could be another who makes a big impression on the tournament.
Goalkeepers: Ron-Robert Zieler (Manchester United), Tom Mickel (Hamburg), Sebastian Mielitz (Werder Bremen)
Defenders: Sebastian Jung (Eintracht Frankfurt), David Vrzogic (Borussia Dortmund), Florian Jungwirth (1860 Munich), Bjorn Kopplin (Bayern Munich), Cihan Kaptan (Bursaspor), Patrick Funk (VfB Stuttgart), Kai-Fabian Schulz (Hamburg)
Midfielders: Lars Bender (Bayer Leverkusen), Sven Bender (Borussia Dortmund), Timo Perthel (Werder Bremen), Mario Vrancic (RW Ahlen), Lewis Holtby (Schalke), Semih Ayedilek (Kayserispor)
Forwards: Richard Sukuta-Pasu (Bayer Leverkusen), Manuel Schaeffler (1860 Munich), Dani Schahin (Greuther Fuerth), Tobias Kempe (Werder Bremen)
26th September – USA
29th September – Korea Republic
02nd October – Cameroon
The US are very strong at youth level, but the squad doesn’t have the same big match experience that many of this German side possess. Meanwhile, there are underlying concerns surrounding the Korean defence, which Germany should be able to exploit. This should leave them in a comfortable position prior to taking on Cameroon in their final group match.
This tournament is famed for throwing up surprises, none less than when Germany claimed it’s only title at this level, when their opposition in the 1981 final was Qatar. Despite the loss of several key players, it would still seem as if there is plenty of talent available at Horst Hrubesch’s disposal. It’s been a wonderful 12 months or so for German youth football, and there’s a good chance they could round it off by adding yet another honour to their rapidly growing list by winning in Egypt
Walter Townsend, Goal.com