The Nations League is back! Hansi Flick now in fine-tuning mode for the upcoming World Cup.
It’s the international break, and that means while the Bayern Munich men’s squad aren’t in action this week, Hansi Flick’s Germany national team are. They finish off the Nations League group stage with their two final matches, starting Friday against group leaders Hungary, in what will also serve as a tune-up for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Germany are currently second in the group, having run a string of 1-1 draws in June (sound familiar?) before smashing Italy 5-2 in their final match of the summer. Hungary, meanwhile, beat mighty England twice — 1-0 on June 4th and 4-0 on June 14th. The Germans will face England on Monday.
Flick’s side were hit with a cruel reminder that the COVID-19 pandemic is very much still around, as Manuel Neuer and Leon Goretzka have had to withdraw from the squad following positive tests, along with Borussia Dortmund’s Julian Brandt — who is also ill but has not tested positive, so it might be something else.
Lukas Klostermann of RB Leipzig, who made his case as starting right-back in the national team squad in June, is separately out injured.
Hoffenheim keeper Oliver Baumann and VfL Wolfsburg midfielder Maximilian Arnold have been called up in place of the late withdrawals, though with a view to World Cup preparations, it’s unlikely players more firmly outside of the first choice will see significant action.
Hopefully that’s the last of the COVID cases for now, but it’s another shot across the bow from the rapidly-evolving virus, and the DFB should step up its mitigation plans to prevent chaos from happening at the tournament. Klara Bühl and Lea Schüller, key players on the women’s team, both tested positive and missed key games in the course of EURO 2022.
So, how will the team selection look? Flick’s tactics came into focus in the four Nations League games this June, and he’ll likely stick close to Plan A for these two. However, he’ll also need to keep in mind the demands of the season in order to avoid wearing out his top players (cough, Thomas Müller) too much before the tournament even begins. There’s not a lot of rest between Friday and Monday, so Flick will have to choose carefully who features more in which game.
As Kimmich points out here, the tactical demands will be different:
️ Kimmich on #GERHUN: “Hungary are tricky opponents. I’ve rarely played against a side that are as disciplined defensively as them. We will need to show our creativity to make chances and we need to ensure we take them.” pic.twitter.com/6GAPBEHfLo
The player probably most in need of rest — Joshua Kimmich — is someone likely not even Flick dares ever bench, and the sudden lightness in midfield makes that even harder to do.
Here’s what his XI against Hungary could look like:
Alternatives: Schlotterbeck (who hasn’t had the best of campaigns so far) at CB, Hofmann at RW, Havertz for Werner. I figure Müller gets the rest and returns alongside the more convincing of Sané and Musiala for England, along with Hofmann and Havertz.
Here’s what the folks at kicker think:
Germany vs Hungary | Predicted lineups [@kicker] pic.twitter.com/LGyIhhxdoU
Personally, I view a Raum-Hofmann fullback pairing as fantastically unlikely. They’re both highly attacking players and Flick showed a preference for one defensive fullback in June. Though maybe Flick will decide an ultra-attacking lineup is the change-up he needs to solve a compact defense.
Update — Bild agrees with kicker!
Germany vs Hungary | Possible lineups [@BILD] pic.twitter.com/p1GsB9XJI9
Looking for more talk about Germany’s prospects? Check out our Preview Podcast. Listen below, or on Spotify.
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