Germany World Cup Preview

World Cup

Germany head to the World Cup seeking to become the first side since Brazil in 1962 to successfully defend the trophy and will arrive as one of the favourites given the talent within their ranks.

Joachim Low’s men have been handed a competitive looking Group F alongside fellow Europeans Sweden, Central Americans Mexico and South East Asian hopefuls South Korea but they will be confident of progressing to the knockout phase.

The group stages and beyond

There are no certainties in tournament football but Germany qualifying from the group stages in a World Cup is about as close as you can get to a guarantee.  Only once, way back in 1938 before the introduction of groups, have Germany fallen at the first hurdle at a World Cup and since 1982 they have reached the quarter-finals or better in every edition of the tournament.

The Germans begin the tournament with a tough game against Mexico but it is still a contest you would expect them to win and they can be backed to come out on top at 1.45.  The current Mexican squad looks solid if a little unspectacular, with no real star names aside from former Bayern Leverkusen man Javier Hernandez, and Germany should have too much quality.  Germany then meet Sweden before completing their group fixtures against South Korea, and in the unlikely event they do need a result going into that final clash you would expect them to get it.

There is a chance Die Mannschaft could come up against Brazil in the second round in what would be a repeat of their 2014 semi-final should either of those heavyweights fail to win their groups.  Such a scenario is a mouth-watering prospect that early in the competition but in truth you would expect both teams to win their groups and then head off into opposite sides of the draw, with Germany 1.40 to top Group F.

Germany’s World Cup 2018 squad in focus

One of Low’s key men in their success four years ago was goalkeeper Manuel Neuer but he hasn’t played for club side Bayern Munich since September due to a foot injury.  The shot-stopper has returned to full training however, and team manager Oliver Bierhoff has said he is “full on track” and will be their number one if he travels.  Even if Neuer isn’t fully fit or doesn’t make the final cut Germany are well-stocked in goal and likely replacement Marc-Andre ter Stegen of Barcelona is more than capable of stepping in.

Germany’s defence conceded just four goals in 10 qualifiers for the tournament despite Neuer’s absence for seven of those matches.  Likely starters Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels and Joshua Kimmich all play their club football together at Bayern and as such already have a strong understanding of how one another plays, while left-back Jonas Hector is a regular fixture in the side with 36 caps to date.

Low’s options in midfield are arguably better than those he had at his disposal four years ago in Brazil.  The likes of Sami Khedira and Toni Kroos bring stability and experience, while Premier League pair Mesut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan add creativity and guile.  Gundogan, 27, missed out on the 2014 squad due to injury and the Manchester City star will be desperate to impress in what will be his first opportunity to shine at a World Cup.

To balance that experience there are also some exciting younger talents who have forced their way into the senior side in the years since they picked up the trophy.

Gundogan’s City team-mate Leroy Sane heads to Russia on the back of an incredible domestic campaign for the Premier League champions and he is likely to have a big role to play for the first time in a major tournament, having managed just one outing at Euro 2016.  Bayer Leverkusen winger Julian Brandt and Bayern Munich-bound Leon Goretzka also bring pace and flair to the squad and provide Low with further options.

One area where Germany have been lacking (by their standards at least) in recent years is in attack, so much so that four years ago Low opted to bring a then 36-year-old Miroslav Klose to Brazil.  The emergence of RB Leipzig star Timo Werner – available at 17.00 to be the World Cup 2018 top goalscorer – has finally given them a star striker in the mould of a Klose in his prime or a Jurgen Klinsmann and he is likely to be the focal point of their frontline.  Low’s current attacking options are so strong he has been able to leave attacking midfielder Mario Gotze, the man who scored the winning goal against Argentina in Brazil, at home after a poor season for Borussia Dortmund.

Werner has managed seven goals in just 12 international appearances and the 22-year-old Leipzig hitman will be well supported by the likes of Thomas Muller, Mario Gomez and Marco Reus.  Muller and Reus can play in various attacking positions and can also slot into midfield roles when required, while 32-year-old Gomez is an experienced head who may have to settle for a place on the bench in most games after forcing his way back into the Nationalelf.

Can Germany make it two in a row?

Germany became the first European nation to win a World Cup in South America with their victory in Brazil and with their current squad you have to fancy them to be real challengers, if not the out and out favourites, closer to home in Russia this summer.

Die Mannschaft are 5.75 to win the tournament outright, just behind 5.50 favourites Brazil, and Low arguably has an even stronger squad to call on this time due the influx of youth he has orchestrated over the last four years.

There may be a few question marks hanging over the holders, particularly regarding Neuer’s fitness and whether or not their younger players can handle the biggest of occasions.  However, Low has a good balance within his travelling party as they look strong in all areas.  Germany boast strength, pace, ability and experience throughout their side and with plenty of older heads who have experienced major tournament football before, they are likely to be the team to beat at the World Cup in Russia.