Germany’s World Cup hopes were given a massive fillip by the sight of holding-midfielder Sami Khedira being put through his paces at Real Madrid’s training complex.
Joachim Low’s team are joint-second favourites at 5/1 alongside Argentina for this summer’s main event, with hosts Brazil the 3/1 jollies.
However, the expected loss of Khedira for the rest of the season following an injury sustained against Italy in November was a clear blow to Die Mannschaft’s chances.
The 27-year-old only made his Germany debut during the latter part of their 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign, but has gone on to appear 44 times under Low – chiefly in a central-midfield two alongside Bayern Munchen’s Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Of the 28 competitive matches he’s started for his country, Germany have won 25 and two of the three defeats with Khedira on from the off came in World Cup and European Championship semi-finals.
This strongly indicates that, if Germany are to stand a chance of taking the World Cup for the fourth time, they need Khedira at the base of their midfield alongside 29-year-old centurion Schweinsteiger.
Low has a wealth of talent in attacking positions, with Mario Gotze, Mesut Ozil, Julian Draxler, Toni Kroos, Marco Reus and Andre Schurrle – among others – all vying for a berth in one of the three spots ahead of central midfield.
However, should Khedira not regain fitness in time, or if Schweinsteiger – who has also struggled with injuries this season – became unavailable, the 54-year-old would be forced to rejig his tactics significantly.
He could ape Pep Guardiola’s FC Bayern ‘Plan B’ and bring Kroos and Philipp Lahm in to dictate the play, or rely on Lars and Sven Bender to hold midfield, as they did in the 1-0 friendly win against England.
Neither option would be ideal when trying to beat the South Americans in their own backyard, as the Bender brothers have a mere 21 caps between them, while moving around the FCB boys would substantially weaken the team in other key areas, particularly at right-back.
With Borussia Dortmund’s well-regarded all-rounder Ilkay Gundogan now looking unlikely to make the plane to Brazil after a season on the sidelines, Low desperately needs lucky charm Khedira to get some gametime between now and the end of May.