Thriving Schweinsteiger proves he’s ready to take Ballack’s mantle
For the first time in five major tournaments Germany will begin a campaign without the name Michael Ballack in their side.
Since making his international debut in 1999, the midfielder has been an integral fixture in a team that has made two finals and a semi, but the cruel injury sustained in the FA Cup Final that will keep him from taking any part in this summer’s World Cup may not quite be the blow to Joachim Low’s side’s chances that many have suggested.
The reason for not allowing negativity to creep in comes in the man set to take on the mantle of midfield creator – Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Since beginning his national career as an all-too-often inconsistent wide man, Louis Van Gaal’s influence over Schweinsteiger’s club form at Bayern Munich this season has seen him reinvent himself as a deep-lying creative anchor with more of the ball, and the timing of Ballack’s injury has come at just the right time for the 25-year-old to prove he can recreate the same form on the biggest stage.
Appointed vice-captain following Philip Lahm’s promotion as skipper, Schweinsteiger demonstrated that he is ready to take on the responsibility of filling his mentor’s shoes by converting two penalties in yesterday’s comfortable 3-1 defeat of Bosnia – the first game since Ballack’s injury that the new captain/vice captain duo have played together.
They capped a perfect day with Lahm scoring the equaliser before Schweinsteiger’s double, and it was Germany’s third warm-up win in succession, having scored nine goals in that time, with Edin Dzeko’s fortunate 15th-minute opener the only goal they’ve conceded.
It suggests that Germany are once again set to mount a serious challenge just at a time when many feared their chances were wilting, and Schweinsteiger’s continuing influence will have a big say as to how far they go. The Bayern man is currently 12/1 to finish as Germany’s top scorer, with his side 14/1 to win the whole thing.