A shock wave struck the Germany camp on Saturday when striker Kevin Kuranyi failed to report to the team bus after his team’s 2-1 victory over Russia. It was later found that the Brazilian-born Kuranyi had left the Signal Iduna Park at halftime, having had his frustration over not playing reach a fever pitch.
Kuranyi has since apologized both publicly and privately, but Germany coach Joachim Löw has vowed to never again select the 52-times capped forward.
Germany will hope to put the Kuranyi drama behind them and go four points clear of Wales in Group 4 with a win tomorrow. Following a good showing against Russia in which he scored the second goal, skipper Michael Ballack skipped practice on Monday after complaining about a right calf injury. The Chelsea midfielder is currently a doubt for tomorrow’s match.
If Ballack is unavailable to play, Torsten Frings will be given the opportunity to appeal to Löw for a starting role. In the Russia match, the Werder Bremen midfielder was a surprising absentee from the German starting eleven as Löw opted to pair Thomas Hitzlsperger with Ballack in central midfield.
Against a Welsh team that will undoubtedly play defensive football, intensity and willingness to run will be crucial for German victory. Complacency in any manner will prevent goal-scoring opportunities, especially against a Welsh side that may include three central defenders, and could spell trouble on the defensive end as well.
For this reason, the form of such hard-workers as Lukas Podolski, Miroslav Klose, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm, and Michael Ballack will be of utmost importance to Germany.
Ahead of tomorrow’s match, Welsh defender Gareth Bale spoke confidently of his team and issued a statement of intent: “We’re going there looking for a result… There’s no reason why we can’t do that.”
Recent history agrees with Bale; nearly a year ago, Wales visited Germany in Frankfurt and finessed their way to a 0-0 draw. For the young Welsh team, the key to success was their effort.
The Welsh played terrifically energetic defense and held a rather smug German side to very few opportunities. The visitors nearly pulled off the winner as Carl Fletcher sent a shot from 18 yards just wide of the post.
Since then, the young Welsh team has gained experienced and matured. A month ago, the Welsh were somewhat unlucky to have lost 2-1 away to Russia. After Bale was fouled in the penalty area in the 17th minute, the Tottenham Hotspur fullback had his penalty shot saved. The match ended in a 2-1 victory for Russia after a late winner from Pavel Pogrebnyak.
Against Germany, Wales will again try to use their energy and tenacious defense to frustrate the home side and disrupt their rhythm. Wales will take to heart the old adage that “the best offense is a good defense” as they will try to force Germany to overextend itself on the attacking end before punishing the home side on the counterattack.
With any luck, Wales may end tomorrow’s match on top of group four.
10/11/08 Germany 2 Russia 1 (World Cup Qualifier)
9/10/08 Finland 3 Germany 3 (World Cup Qualifier)
9/6/08 Liechtenstein 0 Germany 6 (World Cup Qualifier)
8/20/08 Germany 2 Belgium 0 (Friendly)
6/29/08 Germany 0 Spain 1 (Euro Final)
10/11/08 Wales 2 Liechtenstein 0 (World Cup Qualifier)
9/10/08 Russia 2 Wales 1 (World Cup Qualifier)
9/6/08 Wales 1 Azerbaijan 0 (World Cup Qualifier)
8/20/08 Wales 1 Georgia 2 (Friendly)
5/28/08 Iceland 0 Wales 1 (Friendly)
The German camp has been reluctant to report much on Ballack’s injury, so it’s hard to predict a definite lineup. If Ballack is healthy, we can expect the same starting eleven Löw used against Russia. Otherwise, Torsten Frings will likely replace Ballack in central midfield.
Probable Starting XI: Adler – Lahm, Westermann, Mertesacker, Friedrich – Trochowski, Hitzlsperger, Frings, Schweinsteiger – Podolski, Klose
With a full squad of healthy players in the Welsh camp, the only uncertainty is what formation John Toshack will decide to use. Conflicting reports indicate either a 4-5-1 or a 5-4-1 formation from the Welsh. Either way, the presence of a lone striker up front means that 18-year-old Sam Vokes will be relegated to the bench following an underwhelming performance against Liechtenstein.
Probable Starting XI: Hennessey – Bale, Williams, Nyatanga, Morgan, Gunter – Edwards, Koumas, Fletcher, Davies – Bellamy
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Germany – Lukas Podolski
At the moment, Podolski is the only dependable goalscorer on the German team. If he is in form, Germany will score 2 or more goals. If not, the home team may be in for a frustrating evening. A lot depends on how defensive the Welsh line up. Podolski tends to use space created by his partner, but will have a difficult time doing just that if the Welsh line up with three central defenders.
Wales – Craig Bellamy
The former Liverpool striker will hope to score against the tall and formidable combination of Per Mertesacker and Heiko Westermann. One advantage that Bellamy has is his pace, which by far exceeds that of the German centre-backs. A long ball forward to Bellamy could make all the difference for Wales.
Much of the media has been playing up the Kuranyi ordeal as part of a larger crisis in the Germany camp, but I reject these claims. Kuranyi left because he was fifth in the pecking order on his national team; if anything, his departure solidifies the fact that Germany have a very solid striking contingent. Of course, a lot will depend on the resolve of both teams, which won’t be evident until the match begins.
Still, Germany have been phenomenal in tournament qualification for quite some time, and I can’t imagine them slipping up badly tomorrow. Wales, on the other hand, still have some maturing to do before they realize their potential.
Germany 2-0 Wales
I agree with most that has been said here, and the 2-0 scoreline prediction seems just about right.