Strength in depth is the quality every coach wants in their squad – and many must be green-eyed with envy at Joachim Löw given the Aladdin's cave of talent at his disposal at UEFA EURO 2012.
Coaches are generally loath to change a winning team, but despite his side boasting the only 100% record in the competition, Löw did just that. Mario Gomez, who had three goals in as many games, Thomas Müller, and another tournament scorer, Lukas Podolski, all found themselves on the bench come kick-off of their country's quarter-final with Greece.
Having shuffled his pack, however, it was clear Löw had dealt himself a triumphant, winning hand. Two of the trio drafted in for their first start of the tournament, Marco Reus and Miroslav Klose, both scored, while the third, André Schürrle, played a prominent role in a convincing 4-2 win which teed up a semi-final encounter with either England or Italy on Thursday.
"We get on well with each other, not only André and I. We enjoy training together a lot and also enjoy time off the pitch together," said Reus when he faced the media on Saturday alongside his "very good friend" Schürrle, who added: "You could say we are a different generation to the experienced players like [Philipp] Lahm and [Bastian] Schweinsteiger. It is a great mixture that we have."
The apparent ease with which the generational gap within Löw's squad has been bridged was evident at Arena Gdansk. When Giorgos Samaras capped a counterattack to cancel out Germany's hard-won lead, heads might have dropped. However, Sami Khedira's spectacular volley quickly put them back in front before Klose and Reus helped give the scoreline a gloss indicative of the squad's sheer, united will.
"When we were on the bench, we wished the others all the best. Now, they wished us good luck," said the 23-year-old Reus, who is bound for Borussia Dortmund next season. "It is my first European championship and I am highly motivated. It was hard not to play, but the Bundestrainer [Löw] told me to keep working hard and I would get my chance. Then it happened yesterday."
Schürrle, 21, added: "This shows the character and strength within our team. Of course, one hopes to get another chance. Success can only be had with the team, however. The coach has to decide who to play and we will accept his every decision."
Success, of course, helps put a smile on everyone's face. The victory against Greece was Germany's 15th win in as many competitive matches, a new world record. That mark sets them apart in international football, and their performances in Poland and Ukraine so far suggest that may well also be the case at UEFA EURO 2012.
"If we perform to our potential, everyone will have a hard time against us, no matter whether it's England or Italy. Our goal is definitely to reach the final and win the trophy," said Bayer 04 Leverkusen man Schürrle. Reus was willing to go even one step further: "I think we are the team to beat at these EUROs."
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