Stindl, Werner, Wagner or Gomez: Who should be Germany’s first-choice striker at the World Cup?
World champions Germany qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia with a perfect 10 wins from 10 in UEFA Group C – a feat only achieved once before, by Spain in 2010. A record 43 goals were scored, by an incredible 21 players…
However, Joachim Löw’s preferred formation is a 4-2-3-1 – one that can only accommodate one primary centre-forward. Timo Werner, Sandro Wagner, Mario Gomez and Lars Stindl have shared the position over the last 18 months. bundesliga.com investigates who has the strongest claim…
Club: RB Leipzig
Germany record: 10 games, seven goals, two assists
Senior honours: FIFA Confederations Cup winner in 2017; Golden Ball winner (three goals and two assists)
The youngest of the aforementioned quartet, Werner’s rocket-fuelled raids forward are a terrifying sight for opposition defenders, with his top-speed of 21.7 miles per hour making him comfortably Germany’s quickest option in attack. Having scored 34 goals in 48 matches for various Germany youth levels, the RB Leipzig man has had a direct hand in nine goals in 10 games since making his senior debut against England in March 2017.
Watch: Werner living the dream
Werner, perhaps justifiably, seems confident of his place on the plane, telling bundesliga.com recently of his joy at being cheered on by his former VfB Stuttgart idol Mario Gomez when he runs out for Germany ahead of the veteran. “Back when I was 11 or 12, Gomez was winning the [Bundesliga] title with Stuttgart,” he said. “Ten years later he’s sitting next to me in the changing room, giving me a high five and wishing me luck running out for Germany instead of him!”
Club: Bayern Munich
Germany record: Seven games, five goals
Senior honours: FIFA Confederations Cup winner in 2017; Germany’s joint-top scorer in FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifying alongside Thomas Müller (five goals each)
The self-proclaimed “best German striker,” Wagner earned a move to hometown club and German record champions Bayern Munich in December having helped Hoffenheim qualify for the UEFA Champions League qualification rounds for the first time in the club’s history in 2016/17. A European Under-21 champion in 2009 alongside Manuel Neuer, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng, it took until last June before he re-joined his now-Bayern colleagues on the international stage, making his debut in the 1-1 friendly draw with Denmark. He’s rarely looked back since, plundering a team-best five goals in World Cup qualifying.
Watch: Wagner: “I’m the best!”
A Bundesliga goal haul of 16 compared to Werner’s 31 since the summer of 2016 may leave some to snigger at the above claim; but Wagner brings something different to the table. A battering ram of a striker at 6ft 4in tall, Wagner has won nearly 50 percent of his aerial battles in the last 18 months, while his physique belies a ruthless streak in front of goal: The Munich native has converted 71.4 percent of his clear-cut chances in the Bundesliga over the last season and a half – Werner has the next-best record at 65.2 percent…
Club: VfB Stuttgart
Germany record: 71 games, 31 goals, 12 assists
Senior honours: FIFA World Cup third place in 2010; UEFA European Championship runner up in 2008; Golden Boot winner at Euro 2012 alongside Mario Balotelli, Alan Dzagoev, Mario Mandzukic, Cristiano Ronaldo and Fernando Torres (three goals each)
Until the emergence of Werner, Wagner and Stindl, Gomez was the incumbent No.9 for Germany, 23 on his shirt or not. By far the most experienced of the quartet, the Stuttgart striker earned his first cap in 2007, but has so often been the nearly-man for Die Nationalmannschaft. A runner up at Euro 2008 and part of the team that finished third at the 2010 World Cup, Gomez could only watch on as his compatriots ran riot at the 2014 edition in Brazil, with a knee injury keeping him out of the party that lifted the nation’s fourth world title.
Watch: Gomez back where he belongs
Back at first club Stuttgart as of January, Gomez is fighting to maintain the Baden-Württemberg club’s top-flight status. His 16 goals in 33 games helped Wolfsburg avoid relegation by the skin of their fang-shaped teeth last season. A quintessential fox in the box, can the 32-year-old pull off the same again and prove he is still the top dog for Germany?
Club: Borussia Mönchengladbach
Germany record: 10 games, four goals, one assist
Senior honours: FIFA Confederations Cup winner in 2017; Silver Ball winner alongside Leon Goretzka (three goals each)
Stindl matched Werner’s three goals when Germany lifted the Confederations Cup last summer, but missed out on the Golden Ball having assisted fewer times than his Leipzig cohort. It’s not something the Foals captain is normally guilty of – Stindl has laid on nine Bundesliga goals in the last 18 months, plundering 15 for himself – impressive figures when one considers that he sometimes lines up in midfield for Gladbach, with Raffael and Thorgan Hazard in front of him.
Stindl’s versatility may well punch his ticket to Russia. He could start behind any of Werner, Wagner or Gomez, and his pass completion of 82 percent in the final third means that his colleagues shouldn’t be found wanting when it comes to chances created.
Werner, Wagner, Gomez and Stindl may be at the front of the queue, but with homegrown goalscorers lighting up the Bundesliga, these players shouldn’t be overlooked: