Germany World Cup squad omits Mario Gotze as Joachim Low signs new contract
Mario Gotze was not included in Germany's preliminary World Cup squad announced on Tuesday by the German football federation (DFB), which also revealed a contract extension for coach Joachim Low through the 2022 World Cup.
Low, who had been linked with a move to Arsenal to replace Arsene Wenger, had been under contract through Euro 2020 and said he is driven by the idea of "developing and furthering a team which sets it sights on the highest goals."
"The planning horizon over four years is ideal, I'd like to think, especially because there might be some changes in the squad after the 2018 World Cup," Low said.
Sources told ESPN FC in March that Low was Arsenal's leading candidate to take over after Wenger's 22-year reign, but the new deal may complicate the Premier League club's plans.
Gotze was Germany's 2014 World Cup hero as he came on as a substitute in the final against Argentina and scored the winner in the 113th minute, but has had troubles this season with Borussia Dortmund.
"It wasn't his season," Low said of Gotze. "He did not show what his qualities are. He just did not have the form. I hope that he can have a fresh beginning at Dortmund after the break. It's a difficult decision."
Gotze will be the first player to score the winner in a World Cup final and then not return for the following World Cup since 1978, when Gerd Muller did not return to the West Germany squad after scoring in 1974.
Nine other players from Germany's winning 2014 squad will be on board as the Nationalmannschaft eye back-to-back trophies this summer. The 27-man preliminary squad must be reduced to 23 by June 4.
Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer was also included even though he has not played since undergoing surgery on his left foot in September.
Neuer, who broke his left foot three times in the past year, has resumed training with his club and, last week, Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes said he could feature in the DFB Pokal final against Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.
He is among four keepers included in the 27-player squad that will open a training camp in Italy next week.
"We were in constant communication," Low said. "Neuer is back in full training and we want to see and judge him in the training camp. Both sides are aware of their responsibilities.
"We will be open and honest after the training camp, and without match practice, you can't go into a tournament. But right now, things look good. He's our captain and we hope that he can go into the tournament 100 percent fit."
Bayern attacker Sandro Wagner, who moved from Hoffenheim to Bayern in January to increase his chances of playing at the World Cup, was not selected despite scoring eight league goals for the Bundesliga champions in 14 matches.
Low instead selected Stuttgart's Mario Gomez and uncapped Freiburg striker Nils Petersen, who scored 15 league goals this past season -- a record eight as a substitute and five from the penalty spot. Although uncapped at senior level, Petersen was the top scorer at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, when Germany won the silver medal.
"We had to make a decision, and it was made in favour of Gomez and Petersen," Low said. "I know that those players are just very disappointed because they worked hard for it. Sandro has shown his class when with the team."
Dortmund's Marco Reus, 28, could play in his first international tournament since Euro 2012 after missing the World Cup in 2014 and Euro 2016.
Others on the outside looking in will be injured Liverpool midfielder Emre Can, Dortmund midfielder Julian Weigl and forward Andre Schurrle and Arsenal defender Skhodran Mustafi.
Despite Wagner's absence, Bayern are still represented by seven players -- Neuer, Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng, Joshua Kimmich, Niklas Sule, Thomas Muller and Sebastian Rudy.
Four Premier League players -- Chelsea's Antonio Rudiger, Manchester City's Leroy Sane and Ilkay Gundogan and Arsenal's Mesut Ozil -- were named to the preliminary squad. A further five players from abroad -- Real Madrid's Toni Kroos, Juventus' Sami Khedira, Paris Saint-Germain's Kevin Trapp and Julian Draxler and Barcelona's Marc-Andre ter Stegen -- also made the cut.
Germany's first match in Russia will be against Mexico in Moscow on June 17. They will also play Sweden and South Korea as part of Group F.
Germany's 27-man squad
Goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona), Bernd Leno (Bayer Leverkusen), Kevin Trapp (Paris Saint-Germain)
Defenders: Mats Hummels (Bayern Munich), Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich), Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich), Jonas Hector (Cologne), Marvin Plattenhardt (Hertha Berlin), Jonathan Tah (Bayer Leverkusen), Matthias Ginter (Borussia Monchengladbach), Niklas Sule (Bayern Munich), Antonio Rudiger (Chelsea)
Midfielders: Toni Kroos (Real Madrid), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal), Sami Khedira (Juventus), Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich), Sebastian Rudy (Bayern Munich), Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund), Leon Goretzka (Schalke), Leroy Sane (Manchester City), Julian Draxler (Paris Saint-Germain), Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City), Julian Brandt (Bayer Leverkusen)
Forwards: Timo Werner (RB Leipzig), Mario Gomez (Stuttgart), Nils Petersen (Freiburg)
Stephan Uersfeld is the Germany correspondent for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @uersfeld.