World Cup 2018: Germany Preview
RealSport take a look at how far Germany can go in this summer’s World Cup in the first of our Team Previews.
The footballing beast that is Germany. The defending World Champions.
Joachim Low brings his squad of 23 stars to Russia to defend the title they won in such stunning style four years ago in Brazil, dispatching of the hosts 7-1 in the semi-finals along the way.
In doing so, Germany hope to become the first nation to successfully defend a world title since Brazil themselves in 1962.
Change was on the horizon for the Germans after their successful campaign four years ago with Mario Gotze, the match winner in the final, missing out entirely.
2018, moreover, is an opportunity for Germany to blood some of their younger generation, many of whom played in the victorious Confederations Cup, including Leroy Sane, Timo Werner and Leon Goretzka.
Germany are joined in Group F by Mexico, Sweden and South Korea, playing their first game on June 17th.
Route to the finals
Germany were in Group C during their World Cup qualifying campaign, challenging Northern Ireland, Czech Republic, Norway, Azerbaijan and San Marino for a place in the finals in Russia.
The holders were far and away the best nation in their group and were victorious in all ten of their matches, scoring 43 goals and conceding just four, the best offensive record in the European qualifying groups.
Jogi Low will be hoping his side can carry this form – along with their Confederations Cup form – into Russia where they will be considered strong favourites to lift the trophy in July.
Nothing’s set in stone for the Germans and question marks still loom over Manuel Neuer’s fitness, given the time spent on the sidelines for Bayern Munich this season. As a result, Marc-Andre ter Stegan will likely deputise.
The back four is simple enough with three of the four already playing for Bayern Munich and Jonas Hector the undisputed left back.
Midfield is seemingly congested and Low will struggle to choose between Toni Kroos, Ilkay Gundogan, Sami Khedira and Leon Goretzka, whilst Mesut Ozil’s recent form at Arsenal has left a lot to be desired.
Timo Werner is likely to get the nod up front, with 13 Bundesliga goals for RB Leipzig, although it was interesting to see SC Freiburg striker, Nils Petersen, preferred ahead of Bayern’s Sandro Wagner.
Key Player: Timo Werner
Toni Kroos is the obvious choice given his high standing in European football, but the Germans aren’t exactly possession-orientated in their tactical choices.
The cornerstone of German football is counterattacking, particularly doing so at speed and efficiently, but the key to this is having a central figure to lead the line and hold the ball up, bringing others into play in the process.
With Leroy Sane omitted from the squad, moreover, a significant chunk of the goal-scoring burden will fall on Timo Werner.
The 22-year-old was in scintillating form for RB Leipzig in 2016/17 -scoring 21 goals, the highest-scoring German in the Bundesliga-, and followed that tally up with 13 last season, coupled with seven assists.
Not typically playing with a recognised striker since Miroslav Klose and still searching for his long-term success, Werner will have an important role, offering a focal point to Germany’s attack and -hopefully- providing the bulk of the goals.
The striker is not just strong up top, but combines an eye for goal with tricky feet, speed and positional intelligence, forging a perfect balance of qualities for the Germans’ counter-attacking football.
No disrespect to the other nations in Group F but Germany shouldn’t fear for their qualification.
Sweden and South Korea won’t prove problematic and RealSport expect the Germans to gain two straightforward wins from those two fixtures.
The troublesome country will be Mexico. When the two squared off in the Confederations Cup final, the game was close and the Mexicans had their opportunities, despite ultimately losing 4-1.
However, one negative for the Germans is that Low is bringing many of the same players, and the Mexicans, therefore, will understand what to expect.
With Germany likely to top their group, they’ll face whoever finishes second in Group E in the next round.
Group E comprises Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland and Costa Rica, with the 2014 semi-finalists likely to progress first. Whoever the Germans draw, therefore, they’re likely to reach the quarter-finals.
In truth, it’s not of much importance who they face in each round. The Germans are highly effective in knockout tournaments and, if anything, their squad has improved since 2014. They’re more potent in attack, have an out-and-out number nine and a largely similar defence.
At the very least Germany will make the semi-final but the expectation will be to defend their trophy.