''The Mannschaft'' second favourites

Always a tournament team. Photo courtesy DFB.Germany's somewhat shambolic 3-5 defeat at the weekend to a Switzerland side that failed to make it to this summer's European Championships led to the inevitable comparisons about their defence having more holes than Swiss cheese.

Saturday's game in Basle was the final chance for Joachim Löw's fringe players to impress the tight-shirted coach before he named his final 23 for the tournament that the Germans still harbour hopes of winning. Despite Saturday's loss - for which the large Bayern Munich contingent was absent - Germany remain second-favourites with the bookies behind defending champions Spain.

After a shaky performance at the weekend, goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen missed out on the third goalkeeping spot, despite a strong season for Borussia Mönchengladbach. At just 20 years old though, his time will surely come. Elsewhere, after an injury-plagued season, it was no huge surprise to see that Sven Bender will not be joining his twin brother Lars in Poland and Ukraine. Both Benders started their professional careers with 1860 Munich before leaving for pastures new. After a strong second half of the season, Ilkay Gündogan (ex-Nuremberg) received the nod in defensive midfield. Also in midfield, Schalke teenager Julian Draxler can look forward to a summer holiday in which he will hope to finish his school studies. Finally, adopted Brazilian Cacau failed to make the cut, which leaves just Mario Gomez and Miroslav Klose as Germany's central strikers.

These two will battle it out for a place at the head of Löw's 4-2-3-1 formation. While Gomez has scored a hatful of goals for Bayern Munich this year, he has an unerring tendency to frustrate and Löw has shown great faith in Klose in recent years. His tournament experience may yet see him get the nod.

Real Madrid star Özil looking to impress at EURO 2012. Photo courtesy DFB.The midfield is Germany's real strength and is likely to be identical with the one that put in so many swashbuckling performances at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa (Bastian Schweinsteiger, Sami Khedira, Mesut Özil, Thomas Müller and Lukas Podolski), although Toni Kroos has impressed for Bayern this year and may put Khedira under pressure for a place in the middle.

Manuel Neuer is now the undisputed number one in goal, but as Saturday's result suggested, it is the defence in front of him that remains the Germans' weak spot. Captain Philipp Lahm is yet to decide whether he would rather play at right-back or left-back, a problem brought about by the lack of credible alternatives on either flank. If he plays on the left, then Jerome Boateng and Benedikt Höwedes are the options on the right. Given that both are more comfortable at centre-back, and Bayern's Boateng in particular is prone to some horrendous gaffes, this is far from ideal. If Lahm plays on the right, then Dortmund's Marcel Schmelzer will likely play on the left. While still young and inexperienced at international level, this would represent the more logical solution as Schmelzer has been a standout performer for the champions this season.

In the centre of defence, Bayern Munich's Holger Badstuber is likely to get the nod, but in truth, both positions are far from secure. Arsenal's Per Mertesacker, just back from injury, and Dortmund's Mats Hummels played against Switzerland - a game Badstuber will be happy to have missed - and were both culpable for some pretty lax defending. Hummels is a fine footballer - strong and comfortable in possession - who has largely been excellent for Dortmund over the last couple of seasons, but Löw may opt for the experience of Mertesacker and the left-footed option provided by Badstuber. Watch this space.

Germany's remains a squad packed with skilful young players and after an impressive record in recent tournaments (second and two thirds in the last three major tournaments) they are rightly among the favourites. A weakness at the back is likely to prevent them from going all the way, though.

Ones to watch: Unfortunately, Germany's most exciting young talents all play in midfield - by far the most well-stocked part of the squad. This means that, injury permitting, Marco Reus, Mario Götze and Toni Kroos are likely to spend most of their time on the bench. Still just 23, Hummels is a classy defender and will hope to show his worth.


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