Germany men’s national team coach Hansi Flick raised a few eyebrows with his 26-man squad selection for this year’s World Cup — an omission here, a surprise inclusion there. Most intriguing, however, is his three-man midfield. That is, there are three central midfielders on the squad: Joshua Kimmich, İlkay Gündoğan, and Leon Goretzka.
This isn’t entirely a fair accounting, as other players have versatility. However, in the absence of Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos, it seems like Germany will have to lean hard into that — or hope that nobody, but especially Kimmich, gets hurt.
Other defensive midfielder candidates in the national pool — notably Mainz’s Anton Stach, who was called up in June — have evidently not convinced. And while a lot of young attackers have made it, the center of the park has to be a spot of concern.
Bayern Munich’s Kimmetzka pairing looks as strong as ever, fortunately, and Manchester City’s Gündoğan is a world-class player who has a great argument to start. Even still, who can spot minutes? Jamal Musiala? The Bayern wunderkind should be a starter in attack. Borussia Dortmund’s Julian Brandt? Maybe more suited to be in a midfield three, and far more of a question mark when it comes to defensive and press-resistant qualities.
That said, maybe we just haven’t yet grasped the Flick master plan. There are a lot of creative half-space players here, players who can function between an 8 or a 10 or rotate all over the field. Perhaps the late inclusion of a center-forward in Niclas Füllkrug signals a shift in tactics, with a rotating conveyer belt of highly technical players — toss in Chelsea’s Kai Havertz and Bayern’s Leroy Sané — being counted on to plug in to the second lines.
Or, maybe, the plan is to bet everything on Kimmich always playing 90’ and never needing a breather. We’ll soon see!