With the World Cup now fast approaching, let’s take a look at some of the nations who will be hoping to have a successful time of things in Russia this summer. Where better to start, surely, than the reigning champions Germany?
Having won the 2014 tournament in Brazil (and beating the host nation Brazil 7-1 en route to the final) Germany will be a much fancied team when the action gets underway. Indeed, they showed no sign of a misstep during the qualification matches, emerging from UEFA Group C with a 100% record, winning all ten of their games. From those games, they garnered a whopping 11 point lead over second placed Northern Ireland, and finished with a goal difference of +39 – so they won’t be in any mood to allow that qualification road have been travelled in vein.
If the likes of Mesut Ozil, Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira can maintain their form and make it into Joachim Low’s squad then the Germany will be looking tasty already. Marco Reus and Thomas Muller playing either side of Ozil feeding the supply line to someone like Timo Werner up front make the attacking threat of the Germans a site for all to see.
A rock solid defence is also in their possession too, with Marc ter Stegen one of the safest pairs of hands between the sticks in the world. If Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng find their groove just ahead of Neuer, then that’s a strong spine capable of dictating play regardless of the opposition.
As for when the side actually take to the Russian fields, they open their defence of the World Cup title going toe to toe with Mexico, on 17th June, with games against Sweden on 23rd and South Korea on 27th to follow. Without meaning any disrespect to any of those sides, Germany will be looking to advance through the group stages without too many hiccups at all, and anything short of maximum points will be a considerable surprise. Sweden haven’t beaten a Germany team outright since 1978, though they did win 4-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the Four Nations Tournament in Berlin in 1988, yet they would appear to be the toughest opposition Low’s team will face.
The two nations do have a history of thrilling battles in the World Cup, however. The two most recent matches between them were in the qualification stage for the 2014 tournament, with a 4-4 draw being played out in October 2012 and a 3-5 win for Germany in Sweden 364 days later.
Ultimately, Germany will be hugely confident of moving past the group stages and, save for a poor performance against superior opposition in the latter stages will be disappointed not to get within touching distance (at least) of the Final. The magic of football, however, dictates that the road likely won’t be as smooth as it may look on paper – they will still have to remain focused and perform to the best of their ability to realise their potential and maybe even retain the Jules Rimet trophy. If they can manage that, they will become the first team since Brazil (1958 & 1962) to win back-to-back World Cups, though Argentina did fall at the last hurdle in 1990, losing to West Germany in the Final having won the 1986 competition.
Should Germany win Group F, they will face a second round tie against the runners up from Group E – and that group consists of Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia and those boys Brazil. Betting against the Germans reaching at least the quarter-finals would seem confusing to say the least!
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