Four years have come and gone and we’re just weeks away from another FIFA World Cup, with Germany looking to lift the trophy for a record-equalling fifth time.
The defending champions are in good shape ahead of the 21st edition of the tournament and are rightly considered one of the favourites to go all the way. bundesliga.com looks at five reasons why this Germany squad will end up top of the pile yet again…
Even with all the talent in the world, there is no substitute for World Cup know-how. A very sizeable contingent of nine players in Germany’s preliminary squad have experienced this competition before, but crucially, they have a coach and a core set of players that know what it takes to win it. The same cannot be said for the likes of Brazil, France and even Spain, who have retained just five players that won the trophy in 2010 in their provisional squad.
2) Strength in depth
When analysing the strength of this squad, it’s worth noting the talent that did not even make the initial cut. There is no room for Mario Götze, scorer of the winning goal in the 2014 final, nor for fellow 2014 champions Andre Schürrle and Benedikt Höwedes, and Emre Can also misses out.
Yet their absence is more than compensated for by a bountiful supply of talent. A raft of young and hungry players have been included this year, such as Bayern Munich’s omnipotent defender Joshua Kimmich, Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Leipzig forward Timo Werner and Bayer Leverkusen's Julian Brandt. And despite the absence of the aforementioned players, the new recruits boast useful tournament experience of their own, with 15 of the 27 names in the squad lifting the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup.
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3) Individual talent
Despite some notable exceptions – Ronaldo with Brazil in 2002 and Diego Maradona with Argentina in 1986, for example – it’s the strength of the collective that brings a side World Cup glory. That being said, some of Germany’s individual talent will strike fear into the hearts of their rivals. Manuel Neuer, despite his injuries this season, remains the best goalkeeper in the world and Jerome Boateng was one of Germany’s star performers in 2014.
Then there is Toni Kroos, who has become one of the very best midfielders in the world while with Real Madrid. And finally we have the wildcard: Marco Reus. The Borussia Dortmund star is nearing his 29th birthday and yet is about to make his World Cup debut. How he approaches this tournament will be fascinating, as is the thought of what we can expect from him.
4) Historical might, penalty-taking kings
It only takes a glance at the Germany jersey to know how successful a team they are. As well as those four stars signifying their four World Cup triumphs, Germany have also won three European Championship crowns, finishing runners up three times in major tournaments and third on another four occasions.
While that astonishing record brings with it a certain level of expectation, this group of players has the mettle to cope with the pressure, and that mental toughness that is a trait of German sides will come in handy when it comes to penalty shootouts. Germany have not lost on spot-kicks at a major tournament since 1976, while the likes of England, a possible opponent in the quarter-finals have lost six times since 1990.
5) Thomas Müller: the World Cup’s MVP
We've seen it before, from Germany themselves, in fact. The impact of one player can win a tournament game in a split second. Mario Götze came off the bench to score his first and only goal of the 2014 World Cup, to win it. Löw will be hoping to not have to rely on a super-sub, and his best bet to avoid that drama, is Thomas Müller. His tally of 38 goals in 90 matches is incredible in itself, but consider that 31 of those have come in competitive internationals and his greatness becomes clear.
Moreover, he has scored ten World Cup goals to date – five apiece in 2010 and 2014 – and now just needs six more to equal his compatriot Miroslav Klose’s record tally of 16 World Cup goals. The odds on him achieving that milestone are likely to be short indeed. Oh and lest we forget that he’s still only 28…
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