SC Freiburg striker Nils Petersen is the surprise inclusion in Joachim Löw’s provisional 27-man Germany squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
He has been included at the expense of Sandro Wagner, whilst Mario Götze, André Schürrle, Emre Can and Shkodran Mustafi are amongst the other notable absentees. Skipper Manuel Neuer is included, with three other goalkeepers.
The squad will meet at a training camp in Italy next week and Löw, who has also agreed a contract extension until 2022, has until the 4 June to trim the squad down to 23 before they travel to defend the title they won in 2014.
Löw opts for Petersen and Gómez over Wagner
29-year-old Petersen was the top German scorer in the Bundesliga this season for Freiburg, with his 15 goals a big reason why the club were able to survive the threat of relegation. Nevertheless, this is the first time he has been called up by Löw, although he did play for the Olympics team in 2016, scoring six goals – albeit with five of those coming against Fiji.
Speaking at the squad unveiling in Dortmund, Löw noted how Petersen had scored his goals “in a team that does not create many chances.” He feels he will provide a “very, very good” option from the bench, and that he can “grow with the task.”
RB Leipzig’s Timo Werner and VfB Stuttgart’s Mario Gómez are the other out-and-out strikers in the squad, but Wagner, who moved to Bayern Munich from TSG 1899 Hoffenheim in January, has missed out, a surprise given his regular involvement in the national team in recent times.
Wagner had scored eight goals for Bayern, playing as a back-up to Robert Lewandowski, and has five goals for Germany in eight appearances, however Löw said that the “little things” had counted against him, with his omission being “a decision for Mario Gómez and Nils Petersen, not against Sandro Wagner.”
Neuer and Boateng given chance to prove fitness
Neuer, unsurprisingly, has been given the chance to prove his fitness by Löw, despite not having played for Bayern since September due to a metatarsal injury. Marc-André ter Stegen, Bernd Leno and Kevin Trapp are the other keepers in the squad, with one to drop out ahead of tournament. Trapp, a bit-part player for Paris Saint-Germain this season, is most vulnerable if Neuer does convince Löw he is ready at the training camp in South Tyrol.
Jérôme Boateng makes the team despite missing the last four Bayern games with a hamstring injury, whilst Borussia Dormtund‘s Marco Reus has remained injury-free of late to warrant his selection. Mesut Özil and İlkay Gündoğan have also been included, despite controversy over a photo taken at the weekend with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
On the fringes, Jonathan Tah of Bayer Leverkusen and Hertha BSC’s Marvin Plattenhardt have been included in the initial 27, along with regular left-back Jonas Hector, despite 1. FC Köln’s relegation from the Bundesliga. Sebastian Rudy has also been named, despite struggling to impress this season at Bayern. Bayer Leverkusen winger Julian Brandt, who turned 22 earlier this month, is the youngest member of the squad.
Götze is the highest-profile player to miss out, having scored the winning goal in the final against Argentina in 2014. Löw said it had been “hard” for him to leave him out, but it had “not necessarily been his season.” Schürrle and Arsenal’s Mustafi also miss out due to poor form, whilst Can, Serge Gnabry and Lars Stindl are injured.
The squad in full
Goalkeepers: Bernd Leno, Manuel Neuer, Marc-André ter Stegen Kevin Trapp
Defenders: Jérôme Boateng, Matthias Ginter, Jonas Hector, Mats Hummels, Joshua Kimmich, Marvin Plattenhardt, Antonio Rüdiger, Niklas Süle, Jonathan Tah
Midfielders: Julian Brandt, Julian Draxler, Leon Goretzka, İlkay Gündoğan, Sami Khedira, Toni Kroos, Mesut Özil, Marco Reus, Sebastian Rudy, Leroy Sané.
Strikers: Mario Gómez, Thomas Müller, Nils Petersen, Timo Werner.
Quotes via DFB.