For the second consecutive tournament, Marco Reus will be watching Germany compete from the bleachers. He has been dropped from the Euros squad due to injury concerns. During the last World Cup, he suffered an ankle injury against Armenia in a warm-up friendly and was forced to withdraw. He sat on the field, crying and clutching his ankle as the trainers attended to him. Germany would win the tournament, with Mario Götze, Reus' best friend scoring the solitary goal against Argentina, and after the game, displaying a Reus shirt to honor his friend who was unable to be there.
So if superstition serves us correctly, Reus' injury is just the omen and motivation that Germany needs in order to succeed this summer.
All cruel correlation and jokes aside, it is easy to fear for Germany right now. Slovakia just defeated them 3-1 with Germany's only goal coming from a penalty from Mario Gomez. That makes it their fourth defeat in six games, and eighth consecutive game where they failed to keep a clean sheet, conceding five goals in their last five games.
In addition to that, there's also the reality of the squad and the personnel absences. Germany will be playing in a tournament without Philipp Lahm for the first time in 14 years. That leaves the role to Benedikt Howedes, who has played under 900 minutes of soccer this season. And while Bastian Schweinsteiger is included in the squad, the midfielder hasn't played in a competitive match since March, and even then, it was painfully evident that he was no longer the same player that he was just a few years ago. Mats Hummels, recovering from a torn calf muscle, is also a doubt for the first match of the competition. Even after his return, he will need a few matches to return to full fitness —a gamble considering that the team's stability and defensive aptitude depends on his partnership with Jerome Boateng (who is also recovering from injury) and Manuel Neuer, as everything else around the backline changes.
That is not to speak of the players who will miss the tournament due to injury, like Reus and Ilkay Gündogan. Or the out-of-form attackers like Andre Schürrle, Lukas Podolski, Götze and Julian Draxler.
All of these choices and circumstances make the German situation at least worrying. But then again, what is new? Germany went through a similar malaise before the World Cup of two years ago, and while not as extreme, the same questions were asked of their readiness. The same questions were asked about their out-of-form strikers, and the same issues were brought up about Low preferring his favorites over in-form players.
They still managed to finish top of their group, and the rest of the tournament was history. In this edition of the Euros, they're in a group with Ukraine, Northern Ireland and Poland. Unless the team experiences one of the worst collapses in European Championships history, they're bound to finish first without having to exert too much effort.
After that, you expect Germany to be Germany. Their midfield is still one of, if not the best of the bunch and while they're going through a clear transitional phase, so are the rest of the bigger teams that they will be up against. Spain is also moving from their aging stars to the youth, while having their own respective striker problems. Dani Carvajal is no Philipp Lahm, but his absence will hurt in its own unique way for his country. Italy are still looking for an identity while blooding in their younger stars. France has to rely on Olivier Giroud for a month and half of their defense have now pulled out with injuries, while Belgium are still suspect in terms of tournament play.
Their worry is everyone else's worry.
Germany have clear problems that may come back to haunt them, but recent history suggests that it will not. The warm-up losses are disappointing but they're almost always used as experimentation for Low, and as we've seen numerous times, all of their out-of-form players and controversial picks somehow manage to turn into world beaters when the pressure is on.
Age might be the biggest enemy of Germany this time around. The pieces that have always been reliable for them are now victims of time and injury. That may be their downfall, but once again, it's Germany and there would be no surprise if a right back who hasn't played much soccer the last year turns out to be a standout performer once the games begin to matter.
It's confounding, and at this stage, the suspicion is that they sacrifice Reus every tournament in order to infuse everyone else with a dose of talent.