With one of The Super Mario Brothers out injured and the other severely lacking match sharpness, Die Mannscahft are left in quite a predicament as they prepare to face Les Blues.
The Panenka looks at the problems faced by the 2014 World Cup winners in a tale of two forwards named Mario.
Germany will take on France in the semi-final of Euro 2016 without their first choice striker Mario Gomez due to injury. This leaves Joachim Low with a decision to make on the out of form and out of favor Mario Gotze.
Gotze, 23, had been expected to leave Bayern Munich this summer but announced that he would be staying in Bavaria before Euro 2016. With Die Roten and Germany his playing time has been limited and despite his versatility, has fallen down the pecking order in both the center-forward and attacking midfield positions.
The former Borussia Dortmund player has had a difficult summer campaign with the national team. He lost his place a Low’s false-nine to target man Gomez and has seen his playing time erode at Euro 2016 where he has now been demoted to the bench. Furthermore, sections of Germany support rank Schalke teenager Leroy Sane above him in the selection ranks.
Once dubbed the unfortunate tag of “The German Messi,” Gotze has another opportunity to rekindle the magic he once showed by scoring the winner at Estadio Maracana in the 2014 World Cup final due to the injury of Mario Gomez.
Before the tournament the started the stars seemed to be aligning for the playmaker as Marc Reus pulled out with injury making a staring berth probable. Despite the waves parting for Gotze’s place in the team, he didn’t impress and Low’s current decision to leave the Bayern player out of his side has seemed justified.
Gomez however limped off the pitch against Italy in the 72nd minute grimacing and holding his leg with a hamstring injury. The striker has been ruled out of the remainder of Euro 2016 leaving Low with a big decision on who will replace him for the semis and possible final.
After starting the tournament without the Fiorentina striker, the Germany boss inserted the towering target man into his first eleven to offer a focal point to the attack. It seemed to work too when the 30-year-old took the opportunity with both hands and bagged two goals to become the squad’s top scorer.
Despite a stellar career goalscoring record (242 goals in 418 appearances with Stuttgart, Bayern, Fiorentina and Besiktas) and finishing as joint top scorer at Euro 2012, Gomez has barely played for Germany in the last few years. A knee injury and indifferent form scuppered his World Cup hopes in 2014, but a loan move to Besiktas in Turkey has seen him score 26 times in 33 league games this season.
Without the old fashioned center-forward, Germany’s attack has no real centerpiece against France, meaning there will have to be a tactical shift against the French.
Then comes the main dilemma: what to do with Mario Götze? The player who won Germany the World Cup with his goal in the final against Argentina, but who has been struggling for playing time at Bayern Munich this season after he fell out of favor with Pep Guardiola.
A product of the Borussia Dortmund youth system, Gotze left in controversial circumstances in 2013 after Bayern triggered the reported $40 million release clause in his contract. The news came out two days before Dortmund were due to play Real Madrid in the Champions League and Jürgen Klopp made no secret of his anger at the timing.
A player who Matthias Sammer had previously described as “one of the greatest talents Germany has ever had” has fallen some way short or delivering on that sort of billing. Injury problems haven’t helped but coming across as arrogant and aloof have certainly not helped his cause either. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge observed earlier this year that: “We signed him as a big star. It would be nice if he played like one between now and the end of the season.”
At Euro 2016 Gotze started as the false-nine in a front three in Germany’s first two group games against Ukraine and Poland but failed to make an impact. In the final group game against Northern Ireland the forward played on the wing and was again frustrated.
By the time the knockouts came around Gotze had been demoted to the bench and was an unused substitute against Slovakia when the German side looked better without him in a commanding 3-0 victory.
In the quarter-final against Italy, Gotze was again condemned to the bench. Extra-time and penalties didn’t allow him even a cameo as Low used only two of his three substitutes.
Thomas Muller, willing and intelligent runner, could be the man tasked with the more central position, this would mean Gotze might get a spot on the left wing. That however is not certain given the 24-year-old’s recent form. Particularly since there are also the likes of the experienced Andre Schurrle and Lukas Podolski who could fill the wide role in a heartbeat.
When Gomez retreated from the pitch against Italy, Wolfsburg man Julian Draxler got the nod. The 22-year-old has been on the radar as one of the game’s rising starts for some time and played out wide in Germany’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation but is also reportedly equally adept at filling the center-forward position.
Whatever Low decides, Germany’s ability to cope with their target man’s absence will likely be a key decider for their success. Germany play France in the semi-final of Euro 2016 in Marseille on July 7 at 3:00PM ET.