“Germany look good to win the World Cup.” Feel free to cut-and-paste that phrase into a file you can hang onto and bring out every four years. Because every four years you can say that, and every four years it’ll be totally valid. Naturally, Germany doesn’t actually win it every time, but they do come close to it—Germany has finished in the top four 12 times (a record, and an amazing feat, given that there have only ever been 19 World Cups to begin with), grabbing four runners-up mentions and winning the whole thing three times. But, really, this time Germany look good to win the World Cup—even more than usual. They’re a roaring juggernaut running on a Porsche engine: powerful, slick and all but unstoppable. So go ahead, tip them as your favourites—you’ll never be wrong, and you may never be more right than right now.
Goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Roman Weidenfeller (Borussia Dortmund), Ron-Robert Zieler (Hannover)
Defenders: Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich), Erik Durm, Kevin Grosskreutz (Borussia Dortmund), Benedikt Hoewedes (Schalke 04), Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund), Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich), Per Mertesacker (Arsenal)
Midfielders: Julian Draxler (Schalke 04), Matthias Ginter (Freiburg), Mario Gotze (Bayern Munich), Christoph Kramer (Borussia Monchengladbach), Sami Khedira (Real Madrid), Toni Kroos (Bayern Munich), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal), Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund), Andre Schurrle (Chelsea), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich)
Forwards: Miroslav Klose (Lazio), Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich), Lukas Podolski (Arsenal)
Good friend and assistant of Jurgen Klinsmann during his short-rein as national team manager (2004-2006), Joachim Low took over from the legendary German international following the team’s third-place finish on home soil eight years ago. The 54 year-old will be entering his fourth competition as manager; runners-up at Euro 2008, third-place in South Africa 2010 and semifinal appearance at Euro 2012. Despite missing out on silverware, his biggest achievement has been the breeding of a golden generation that is on the cusp of glory.
4-2-3-1 (GK) Neuer – (D) Lahm, Boateng, Mertesacker, Hoewedes – (M) Muller, Schweinsteiger, Kroos, Ozil, Reus – (F) Klose
Group G schedule
June 16: vs. Portugal in Salvador
June 21: vs. Ghana in Fortaleza
June 26: vs. United States in Recife
How they qualified
In a word: smoothly. Joachim Low’s team all but cruised through qualifying, winning every match but one—a 4-4 draw salvaged by Sweden on the strength of an impossible comeback capped by a last-gasp Rasmus Elm strike. In the process the Germans scored a whopping 36 goals in 10 games, the highest goals-per-game rate of any team in qualification around the world.
An influx of talented multi-functional midfielders and wide-men under the age of 25 has Germany well-positioned for present and future success. The foundation was laid over a decade ago by revamping the structure of youth development. Mesut Ozil (25 years-old, 50+ caps), Mario Gotze (21 years-old, 30+ caps) and Marco Reus (24 years-old, 20+ caps) all possess a wealth of maturity and experience on both the club and international level. Julian Draxler (20 years-old, 10+ caps) is the next hot prospect breaking into the senior side. The list continues: Thomas Muller (24 years-old, 50+ caps), Toni Kroos (24 years-old, 40+ caps) and Andre Schurrle (23 years-old, 30+ caps).
Given all the quality within the German ranks—a perfect blend of youthful energy and veteran leadership—its difficult to single out a definitive deficiency. However, no team is without flaw, and when you take into account their recent shortcomings, tripping right before the finish line, the problem seems to be a psychological one. The absence of a true leader—like Franz Beckenbauer and Lothar Matthaus—who governs by example on the pitch; lifting spirits when faced with adversity by exuding confidence among his teammates. More importantly possessing the mental toughness that commands obedience and is unequivocally respected within the ranks.
Players to watch
When you’re spoiled for choice, it’s tough to aim the spotlight on a select few, considering the collection of talent heading to Brazil this summer all merit mentioning. That being said, the versatility and scoring threat of Thomas Muller, combined with the creativity and distribution of Marco Reus is worthy of an elevated status. Both players are well-positioned to seize the moment and carve out a place among German football royalty—should their performances play an integral role in ending Deutschland’s 24 year World Cup curse.
Is the current group Germany’s new golden generation? On paper, the players heading to Brazil are full of potential, ambition and quality. But, previous teams were of equal stature or close to it. The end result has remained the same; the Germans simply run out of gas and lose focus at the wrong time. It will be interesting to see if this crop can rise to the occasion and go the distance.
Prospects in Brazil
Perennial favourites every four years, the Germans are intent on contesting the final at the newly refurbished Estadio do Maracana on July 13. The route to the final on the surface should be straightforward; beginning with their closest competitors to top Group G—Portugal on June 16. However, Ghana and the United States are no pushovers, and capable of earning a favourable result. Belgium and Russia are likely second round opponents, though, things get tricky in the latter stages should Germany advance to the quarters—where a run-in with France or Bosnia would be the likeliest scenario for the group winners. Finish runners-up, a last eight rematch with revenge-seeking Argentina is a foreseeable outcome.
World Cup history
Qualification for 2010 ended with a perfect record, followed by topping their group in a South Africa. Low then guided Germany to epic victories over England (4-1) and Argentina (4-0), before falling to the eventual champions Spain (1-0) in the semis. Another third-place finish was the end result—defeating Uruguay 3-2. The Germans finished in the same position on home soil in 2006, and twice more in previous tournaments (1934,1970). Three-time winners (1954, 1974, 1990), seven-time finalists—Germany are always in the conversation.
• 1930 – Did not enter
• 1934 – Semifinals (third place)
• 1938 – First round
• 1950 – Banned
• 1954 – CHAMPIONS
• 1958 – Semifinals (fourth place)
• 1962 – Quarterfinals
• 1966 – Runers-up
• 1970 – Semifinals (third place)
• 1974 – CHAMPIONS
• 1978 – Second round
• 1982 – Runners-up
• 1986 – Runners-up
• 1990 – CHAMPIONS
• 1994 – Quarterfinals
• 1998 – Quarterfinals
• 2002 – Runners-up
• 2006 – Semifinals (third place)
• 2010 – Semifinals (third place)
Algeria || Argentina || Australia || Belgium || Bosnia and Herzegovina || Brazil || Cameroon || Chile || Colombia || Costa Rica || Croatia || Ecuador || England || France || Germany || Ghana || Greece || Holland || Honduras || Iran || Italy || Ivory Coast || Japan || Mexico || Nigeria || Portugal || Russia || South Korea || Spain || Switzerland || Uruguay || United States