|Portugalís Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani, during a practice session, in New Jersey
Salvador: As captain, Philipp Lahm already has a special role in the Germany team. He is not so sure about his role in the upcoming World Cup matches, however.
Injuries are forcing coach Joachim Loew to have another look at his options and Lahm is likely to be fielded as a defensive midfielder in Brazil rather than in his usual and preferred position as right back.
Lahm says it’s the coach’s decision and that he is ready to play in whatever position he’s thrown into.
But putting Germany’s top defender in midfield could weaken the already suspect back four of Loew’s team.
Lahm played as a defensive midfielder a lot this season for Bayern Munich, also because of injuries to his teammates, and filled the role surprisingly well.
That has led Loew to test his captain in the new role and that’s where he played in the final warm-up match, a 6-1 win over Armenia.
“You assume that if you played in one position in the final friendly, you will also play in the same position at the World Cup,” Lahm said on Tuesday.
“Of course I’ve spoken to the coach a lot, but it will be up to him to disclose what we discussed. At the end, it’s his decision in which position I play,” Lahm said.
Lahm became Germany captain four years ago, when Michael Ballack got injured and had to miss the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Loew never recalled Ballack and Lahm stayed as captain.
“Nothing much has changed since then, except that I now have more experience. Your authority comes from your performance on the field,” he said.
By moving into midfield, Lahm may squeeze out Bastian Schweinsteiger from the starting line-up. Schweinsteiger has been bothered by a knee injury and may not be fully fit for the June 16 opener against Portugal in Group G. Lahm sustained an ankle injury in the final club match of the season and missed most of the training camp. But the captain says he is ready now.
“I am fine, my foot is OK, I can play,” Lahm said. Loew usually uses two defensive midfielders and usually they are Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira. But Khedira is only coming back after missing six months with a knee injury and Loew is unlikely to risk playing both with doubts about their fitness.
But strengthening the midfield could expose the defence. Jerome Boateng would then move to Lahm’s position as right back. But he normally plays as a central defender at Bayern and feels more comfortable in that role.
Benedikt Hoewedes is not a natural left back and newcomer Erik Durm may get his chance despite a lack of experience. That position has been a weak link in Loew’s team for a long time.
The two central defenders, Mats Hummels and Per Mertesacker, have not often played alongside each other and when they have, were not always the bedrock of stability.
When attacking midfielder Marco Reus got injured in the match against Armenia and had to drop out of the World Cup, Loew decided to call up a defender in his place, Shkodran Mustafi. This could be another indication that Lahm is moving into the midfield.
Lahm insisted they are happy to be one of the favourites in Brazil.
“I actually really like the fact that expectations are so high,” he said.
“Firstly, it’s normal: we have had two third-place finishes and we have to try to improve on that in Brazil. This team has been together for a long time, we have come very far.” (Agencies)