Before the quarter-final against Greece, I was convinced Joachim Löw would stick with the side that had propelled Germany through the group stage. As it was, he surprised me and almost everyone else. Not by bringing in Jérôme Boateng for Lars Bender at right-back – a move that was widely expected – but by swapping Mario Gomez, Lukas Podolski and Thomas Müller for Miroslav Klose, André Schürrle and Marco Reus. The last-mentioned had a particularly good game, capping it with a goal.
The question now is whether Löw has more wholesale changes planned for Thursday's semi-final against Italy in Warsaw. The Azzurri's choice of formation looks to be down to 3-5-2 or 4-3-1-2, and while the Azzurri have some injury doubts, they are of little concern to a Germany team intent on imposing their own 4-5-1 game on every opponent.
The back four seems a given. In three of their four UEFA EURO 2012 matches, Germany have fielded Boateng, Mats Hummels, Holger Badstuber and Philipp Lahm in front of Manuel Neuer, with the only deviation from that formula forced by suspension. Since they have no disciplinary concerns, anticipate no alterations.
In midfield, there are three untouchables: Mesut Özil, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira (who, amazingly in retrospect, appeared in danger of losing his starting place going into the finals). There have been queries about Schweinsteiger's fitness after he revealed he was still suffering from an old ankle injury, and some suggested replacing him with Toni Kroos. But on Tuesday, Löw pretty much confirmed Schweini would play.
On the flanks, it looks set to come down to two individual duels: Schürrle v Podolski on the left; Reus v Müller on the right. Conventional wisdom says that Podolski will win out on the left and Reus on the right, respecting the real threat he can pose. However, I think Löw will deploy Müller on the right and Reus on the left, as he did for 15 minutes against Greece.
The striking question remains – Gomez or Klose – and is as difficult to answer as ever. Gomez is in top form, as the tournament's three-goal joint top scorer, while Klose has a wealth of experience. Some propose Löw might start with Gomez, since Klose is better coming off the bench than the Bayern striker, but I have a feeling he will opt for Klose.
So that leaves my predicted starting lineup as: Neuer; Boateng, Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm; Schweinsteiger, Khedira, Müller, Özil, Reus; Klose.
Do you agree?
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