The Morning Star have asked me to do some guides for the World Cup. First up, Germany.
The last time Germany failed to reach the quarter-finals of a World Cup was way back in 1978, when their current manager was just 18.
The third most successful club in World Cup history are seasoned tournament experts and will be expected to challenge once more after an impressive qualifying campaign. Having scored 26 goals in ten outings and remained undefeated throughout, Low guided his side to qualification with relative ease.
However, Low has a serious dilemma with his striking options. Miroslav Klose, Lukas Podolski and Mario Gomez have only scored fifteen goals in eighty-one games between them in their respective domestic seasons.
Alternative options Stefan Kiessling and Cacau have an impressive 34 goals in 58 games but only eight international caps and have not found the net on the world stage yet.
Low can call upon experience everywhere in other departments, with Michael Ballack, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Arne Friedrich all present, although it is the young Thomas Muller that is causing some excitement.
After an impressive debut season, the Bayern Munich player has endless energy supplies and a keen eye for goal.
Against the better teams in the competition, expect Low to put out a 4-2-3-1 formation with Ballack and Schweinsteiger holding in midfield behind Muller, Mesut Ozil and Podolski. The German boss has put his faith in Klose, who seems ever-impressive in an international tournament, so it would be no surprise to see the Munich striker keep his place despite a poor domestic season.
But Low is tactically astute enough to have an alternative. Against the weaker teams, Low may favour a 4-4-2 with Ozil moving to the left of midfield and Kiessling or Gomez played as the extra striker.
Germany favour to attack on the left flank through Lahm, Podolski and the left-drifting Ozil. They should provide more than enough crosses for the aerial threat of Klose.
One area of weakness is in defence. Low has yet to decide who is best to partner Per Mertesacker in the centre of defence and although Lahm is arguably Germany’s best player, the other full-back position is up for grabs with Manchester City target Jerome Boateng favourite to start.
Joachim Low was Jurgen Klinsmann’s number two at the 2006 World Cup, and the tactician took the main job after Germany’s extra time defeat in the semi final against Italy. Modern-thinking and more often than not, tactically spot on. Then again, he is German.
Philipp Lahm impressed at the European Championships two years ago and has been impressive for Bayern Munich, though his form can waver. His slight frame can sometimes be a problem, but given space to roam and attack, he is a potent threat.
Quarter-Finals at least. They are seasoned, strong and have a nice balanced blend of youth and experience. If they get the odd extra-time goal and penalty shootout, they could go all the way.