FIFA World Cup: No more false nines for Germany

Germany’s eight-year experimentation in attack looks to be coming to an end at the World Cup in Qatar with coach Hansi Flick having opted to include natural centre forwards in his squad.

Since the retirement of all-time leading World Cup scorer Miroslav Klose following their 2014 World Cup victory in Brazil, the Germans have tried a variety of attacking systems mainly with wingers deployed as false nines but with little success.

The country that has lifted the World Cup four times has been served very well by its centre forwards in the past decades with Ottmar Walter helping them lift the 1954 title.

It was arguably the most iconic nine — the late Gerd Mueller — who led the Germans to their second title in 1974 before Juergen Klinsmann took over the scoring for their 1990 victory in Italy.

Twenty four years later it was another target man, Klose, who scored the goals in their victory in Brazil and became the top World Cup scorer of all time with 16.

Since then, however, Germany, playing without a standard centre forward, suffered a shock first-round exit at the 2018 World Cup, were relegated in the Nations League that year and crashed out in the round of 16 at last year’s European Championship.

Flick, who took over from Joachim Loew last year, has now decided to go a different route in Qatar, having included two natural centre forwards in his squad.

Werder Bremen’s Niclas Fuellkrug made his Germany debut at the age of 29 this week, scoring the winner in their warmup match against Oman on Wednesday after coming on as a substitute.

His sensational 10-goal run in the Bundesliga made him a necessary choice with Flick praising his qualities which he said would enrich his team.

Youssoufa Moukoko, the youngest player at this World Cup at 18, is a striker from a different generation than Fuellkrug.

He does not have the height or power in the air that Fuellkrug possess but every time the Borussia Dortmund striker is in the opponents’ box alarm bells are ringing.

A lighting-quick centre forward with skills and football intelligence to match, Moukoko has scored six times and delivered three assists in the Bundesliga this season.

While he is unlikely to start, the teenager will no doubt be deployed, especially following injuries to centre forward Lukas Nmecha and forward Timo Werner who did not travel to Qatar.

Germany kick off their World Cup campaign against Japan on Wednesday before taking on 2010 world champions Spain and Costa Rica in Group E.

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