Attack is the team's strength

The German coach Joachim Loew has improved on his predecessor Jurgen Klinsmann's efforts. Tactically smart and helped by a steady inflow of young, creative talents (for which credit must also go to the youth development system), he has changed Germany's reputation of being a mechanical, regimented outfit. Over to Shreedutta Chidananda.

In the 12 years since Euro 2000, when it recorded its worst ever performance at the Championships, Germany has come a long way. No longer the ageing, uninspiring bunch of old, the Germans today are overwhelmingly second favourites to win Euro 2012.

It was Jurgen Klinsmann's bold appointment in 2004 that was the watershed. Germany appeared revitalised, a side genuinely capable of doing things with a football. Klisnmann's deputy Joachim Loew took over after the fine World Cup run at home, guiding the nation to a final appearance at Euro 2008 and another World Cup bronze medal.

Loew didn't merely sustain Klinsmann's efforts; he improved on them manifold. Tactically smart and helped by a steady inflow of young, creative talents (for which credit must also go to the youth development system), he has killed Germany's reputation of being a mechanical, regimented outfit. In its stead has come universal praise for a side that genuinely delivers excitement. Germany is equally comfortable keeping possession — when it sweeps upfield with quick, slick passes — or attacking on the break. This is enabled only by a team that is young (the average age of the final 23-man-squad is a staggering 24.43), fast, and technically excellent.

Although Loew has previously experimented, he usually employs a 4-2-3-1, now emphatically the formation of choice across Europe. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira play in front of the defence; the trio of Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, and Lukas Podolski ahead of them; with a single striker in Miroslav Klose or Mario Gomez. The flexibility of this formation, though, allows Germany to, at times, throw on three or even four men in attack.

Schweinsteiger is, unquestionably, the beating heart of the team. He started out wide as a brash, young, talent with an explosive shot but has now matured into one of the world's finest central midfielders. He was never especially quick; what he instead worked on was his passing and his reading of the game. The 27-year-old was injured for a large part of the domestic season, but to his nation's relief has recovered in time for the summer.

It is Germany's attack that has fans rubbing palms in gleeful anticipation. The 22-year-old Muller, Golden Boot-winner at the World Cup, can dribble, finish, and is exceptionally good both on the ground and in the air. Real Madrid's Ozil, now the team's undisputed superstar, began on the left but now performs the role of a number 10. He floats in and out of positions, plays between the lines, and can carve stubborn defences open.

Podolski brings a fierce directness to play on the left, and if called upon can play as a striker. Further with young attackers like Marco Reus and Mario Gotze to come off the bench, opponents will have little time to relax. It is the nationalmannschaft's defence, though, that is giving Loew headaches. Except for captain, Philip Lahm, no other player has held down a place in the back four with authority. Jerome Boateng and Holger Badstuber are not quite world class while Benedikt Howedes and the highly-regarded Mats Hummels are unproven. Boateng, Badstuber and Hummels could eventually start but the defence needs a lot of work.

Another point of debate in Germany has been the impact Bayern Munich's two cup-final defeats and failure to win the league will have on team morale. There are eight Bayern players in the squad and Loew himself has publicly worried that this could be a problem. With Holland, Portugal and Denmark waiting in the group stages, there isn't much time.


Goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer, Tim Wiese nad Ron-Robert Zieler.

Defenders: Marcel Schmelzer, Benedikt Howedes, Mats Hummels, Holger Badstuber, Philipp Lahm, Per Mertesacker and Jerome Boateng.

Midfielders: Ilkay Gundogan, Sami Khedira, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mesut Ozil, Lars Bender, Toni Kroos, Mario Gotze and Marco Reus.

Forwards: Andre Schurrle, Lukas Podolski, Miroslav Klose, Thomas Muller and Mario Gomez.