Löw: "Can't make any compromises"
Chile’s key players: Sanchez and Vidal
The returning Bastian Schweinsteiger and four newcomers are among those in the first Germany squad of the World Cup year, with coach Joachim Löw calling up 21 players for the international friendly against Chile next Wednesday (live on ARD from 20:45 CET). The occasion marks a first international call-up for Matthias Ginter of Freiburg, Shkodran Mustafi of Sampdoria, Pierre-Michel Lasogga of Hamburg and André Hahn of Augsburg.
Löw justified his choice as follows: "With the World Cup approaching, we can't and won't make any compromises. We must do everything to ensure success. I've spoken to a lot of my players personally over the course of the past few weeks. Many of them, some of whom are key players, are still carrying knocks and are injured or have only just returned to action and haven't yet got into their stride. We now have the opportunity to act and to work on solutions and alternatives that’ll help us in the case of an emergency. This is why we've decided to bring in a few new faces, players who've consistently performed well for their clubs during the last few weeks and months. Our plans are completely focused on our first World Cup group match on 16 June, as we'll need to be at the top of our game by the time we face Portugal. This will only be possible if all of the players with us at our training camp in South Tirol for the final preparations in two and a half months' time are completely fit and in excellent shape, both physically and mentally."
Löw looks forward to getting to know the newcomers
The coach also spoke about the four newcomers: "We already had our eye on Shkrodan Mustafi and Matthias Ginter at U-21 level. Just like Pierre-Michel Lasogga and André Hahn, their call-up was entirely deserved. I'’m looking forward to getting to know them and to working with them in the national team setup."
Bastian Schweinsteiger also returns to the squad, the Germany vice-captain having last represented his country on 15 October 2013 in a match against Sweden in Stockholm, and Löw was full of praise for the Munich man: "Bastian is progressing well, that much is clear from his impressive performances for Bayern Munich. We all know how important he is to our game. He's an absolutely world-class player, capable of making the difference for us in Brazil. I know how hard he’s working to be in peak physical conditional for the summer and I’m convinced that he'll play a leading role for us before and at the tournament."
Senior players Kevin Großkreutz of Borussia Dortmund, Miroslav Klose of Lazio and Lukas Podolski of Arsenal will also be returning to the first-team squad following spells of varying length on the sidelines. Großkreutz has endured the longest absence from international football, the midfielder last representing his country in a 1-1 draw in Dortmund on 9 February 2011.
The match against Chile represents the first fixture of the 2014 calendar year for the German national team. "Chile will come at us with a great deal of determination. Their team is a perfect example of the South American way, using speed and technique to play directly. But they've also got some really tough players in their ranks, players who’ll be fiercely combative and put us under pressure. In this respect, we're expecting a really tough encounter in our opening match of the World Cup year. Moreover, we want to put a few different options to the test, as we don’t have too many more opportunities left to do so."
The German national team has faced the Chileans on six occasions, boasting a marginally superior record of four wins and two defeats. But the last time the two sides met was over three decades ago, Germany beating the South American outfit 4-1 in Gijon in the group stages of the 1982 World Cup in Spain thanks to a Karl-Heinz Rummenigge hat-trick and a goal from Uwe Reinders.
A strong run of recent performances
Chile currently occupy 14th place in the FIFA World Rankings, the country finishing the South American World Cup qualifying group in third place behind Argentina and Colombia. And coach Jorge Sampaoli's men have put together a string of impressive performances in their friendly matches since: they lost a hard-fought match against Brazil 2-1, claimed a 2-0 victory in England and almost beat Spain, the world champions scoring a last-minute equaliser to secure a 2-2 draw.
The match in Stuttgart is the first of four fixtures for the German national team in the run-up to the World Cup in Brazil, the second coming against Poland in Hamburg on 13 May (live on ZDF at 20:45). The third outing of the year will be against Cameroon in Mönchengladbach on 1 June before Germany take on Armenia in a charity international match in Mainz on 6 June. The squad will fly out to Brazil on 7 June.
Löw concluded by outlining what he expects of his players ahead of the World Cup: "I have a lot of trust in my players and I'm sure that they’ll do everything in their power to participate in the World Cup in Brazil. We have set out to achieve a very difficult objective, one which must come above all else. I have clear expectations and requirements as far as my players are concerned. I need to see these implemented consistently during the next few weeks."