Left or right? That is the big question that hung over full-back Philipp Lahm as Germany's game against Portugal looms, but the answer has only led to another mystery.
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Now we all know. In the past few weeks, millions of football fans (at least in Germany) have wondered whether Philipp Lahm would be fielded as left or right-back by Joachim Löw at UEFA EURO 2012, with his captain equally comfortable in both roles.
On Thursday, in the team press conference in Gdansk, Lahm let the cat out of the bag. "I spoke to the Bundestrainer and he wants to see me play at left-back," said the FC Bayern München man. "It will always be the coach's decision and it is no problem for me. I will always serve the team."
Many had speculated, and even hoped, that Lahm would feature as right-back at least for the Portugal match. He brilliantly kept Cristiano Ronaldo occupied for long spells over two legs in Bayern's UEFA Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid CF in April, with Ronaldo likely to play on Portugal's left flank in Saturday's Group B opener. "Ronaldo is a complete player, he basically has it all," Lahm said. "His pace and his finishing are outstanding. He is surely unique in Europe and the entire world."
Their paths will not cross at UEFA EURO 2012, though. "The decision for Philipp to start on the left has been made," confirmed Löw. "I came to that conclusion in talks with him last week. He has played in that position for us for the past two years. I believe it is very, very good for our game if Philipp features on the left."
This is bad but not entirely unexpected news for Borussia Dortmund left-back Marcel Schmelzer, who is now relegated to a secondary role. However, the next question is, who will operate at right-back? "I don't know what the Bundestrainer plans for the right wing, but Jérôme Boateng has collected enough experience, especially this season," said Lahm. "I don't think he will need many tips from me."
"Jérôme Boateng would be the first choice on the right side," said Löw, yet on Wednesday the 52-year-old tried out in training a different option from the bulky Boateng which might be more suited to countering the agile Ronaldo. "I saw in practice that Lars Bender does extremely well in that position," Low said. "I will take my time to make the final decisions."
So is deploying the relatively inexperienced Bender, with just six caps to Boateng's 21 and usually a holding midfielder, really Löw's plan to nullify Ronaldo? We will have to wait until Saturday in Lviv to find out.