“Football is a simple game: 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.” – Former England forward, Gary Lineker.
The 2018 FIFA World Cup is upon us: 32 teams from five confederations doing battle with the aim of being crowned the footballing masters of the universe following the tournament’s 64th and final match on 15 July in Moscow.
According to Mr. Lineker’s words, that team will be Germany, and we’ve got the key numbers to back up the widespread belief that Joachim Löw’s side can be the first to defend the world title since Brazil did so in 1962.
Reason 1: Never write off the Germans
Another oft heard quote about Die Mannschaft refers to the fact that they are almost always involved at the business end of football’s global jamboree. In 18 tournament appearances, Germany have reached an incredible 13 semi-finals and eight finals, scooping the prize on four occasions.
When Löw’s men kick-off their title defence against Mexico in Moscow on Sunday, it will be their 107th finals game and they will be chasing goal number 225. “When you’re world champions, Confederations Cup winners and No.1 in the FIFA rankings for three or four years, then you’re being hunted down,” Löw said in the build-up to the 2018 spectacular. Let the hunt begin!
Watch: The Bundesliga quartet in World Cup form
Reason 2: Qualification stroll
Joshua Kimmich, Thomas Müller, Mats Hummels et al couldn’t have qualified for the 2018 World Cup in a more straightforward and clinical manner. A 100 percent record meant Germany became only the second team (after Spain) from the European qualifiers to advance with ten wins in a six-team group.
Furthermore, it was Germany’s third such perfect qualification run to a World Cup, two more than any other nation. Along with Belgium, Die Mannschaft registered a new high of 43 goals in a UEFA section, with 21 of the 34 players participating along the way finding the target. “I think that we’re on a par with our 2014 team, if not even better,” midfield powerhouse Toni Kroos acknowledged.
Reason 3: Powered by the Bundesliga
As many as seven players from Bundesliga champions Bayern Munichh are in Löw’s 23-man squad, with a further seven representing as many clubs from Germany’s top tier.
The holders even have a player from Germany’s second tier involved, with Jonas Hector flying the flag for the recently relegated Cologne. “Every boy dreams of playing for his national team in a big tournament. I’ve already been a part of the European Championship, but a World Cup is something ever bigger. I can’t wait to get there,” the full-back said.
Reason 4: Masters of possession and discipline
Expect Germany to see a lot of the ball in Russia, and be clinical with it. A phenomenal 92 percent successful pass completion rate was complemented by the side’s 69 percent possession stat in qualifying.
Incredibly, Germany collected just five yellow cards and not a single red in their ten qualifiers and while a lot has been made of this team boasting collective as opposed to individual star strength, one player stood out on the road to Russia.
The only man ever present in Germany’s qualifiers, Kimmich weighed in with a European high of nine assists while his 753 completed passes were bettered only by Kroos (763) and Switzerland’s Granit Xhaka (834). Added to the Bayern supremo’s two goals, meanwhile, were 36 crosses.
Reason 5: Records in sight
The FIFA World Cup’s top appearance holder and record goalscorer are both German. Lothar Matthäus – one of only two players to have played in five World Cups – holds the appearance record with 25 games while Miroslav Klose is the competition’s top scorer with 16 goals from his 24 matches. Müller will fancy his chances of making inroads into the latter number, with Bayern’s Raumdeuter currently on an impressive World Cup run of ten goals in 13 finals appearances.
Only one coach has won the World Cup twice, Italy’s Vittorio Pozzo in 1934 and 1938. Emulating that impressive feat is certainly within Löw’s capabilities this time around. “In terms of attacking, we’re very strong. But the saying goes that good defences win tournaments. It’s a hugely exciting task,” the tactician said.
With nine players from Germany’s successful 2014 tilt back in the mix this time around, the numbers are looking good for Die Mannschaft and two in a row.