Germany are the big favourites to win the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Die Mannschaft are a formidable side at any time, and they always seem to find something extra for the really big games.
After taking out the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Germany enjoyed a highly successful qualifying campaign, with a perfect 10 wins from 10 games and a joint European-record of 43 goals.
Despite their disappointing semi-final loss to France at Euro 2016, Germany also found the time to win the Confederations Cup in Russia with a 1-0 win over Chile. Germany find themselves in Group F, alongside Mexico, Sweden, and South Korea. While hardly a group of death, all of these sides are capable of causing some headaches for Germany, especially Mexico and Sweden.
The real tests for Germany will come in the knockout stages, however, including an in-form Brazil team hungry for revenge. After losing to Germany 7-1 at their own World Cup, Brazil have been waiting four years to turn the tables. Spain, Portugal, Argentina, and France could also stop Germany in their tracks on a good day, with the World Cup always throwing up some surprises.
The German Squad
While many of the veterans of Germany’s 2014 World Cup will still be on board, coach Joachim Low has a number of tough decisions to make as he chooses between established and upcoming talent. Like all quality teams, it’s the combination of individual talent and group integrity that makes the difference. Joachim Low has named his provisional 27-man squad in the lead-up to Russia, with Bundesliga superstars Manuel Neuer and Marco Reus making the cut but 2014 winning goal scorer Mario Götze failing to impress.
Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos has been given the role of Germany’s new captain, with his intelligent play and poise on the ball surely enough to inspire the rest of the team. Other key players include Mesut Özil, Thomas Müller, and Leroy Sané. Despite Barcelona’s Ter Stegen acting as goalkeeper for most of the qualifying campaign, highly experienced Neuer will probably be given the nod if he’s 100 percent fit.
The staunch defence of Hummels and Boateng is likely to make up the back three, with Hektor and Kimmich on the left and right respectively. While the midfield line-up is not so clear, the experienced Khedira will probably join Kroos in the centre of the park. While the in-form Ilkay Gündogan could be chosen for some games, Low is likely to choose big game form over current form in this crucial position. Mesut Özil and Thomas Müller practically pick themselves, with the other positions a little more up in the air.
The depth of the German squad is simply incredible, especially when you consider the wealth of talent that are unlikely to get a starting position. While Werner and Reus might get the chance to impress, you’ve also got Sané, Wagner, Stindl, Mustafi, Can, and Goretzka, just to name some of the better talent. Unlike Brazil, Germany could pick two or three players for each position and still be recognised as the favourites. This is key to the 2018 World Cup, with any injuries picked up along the way likely to plague Brazil much more than Germany.
Group F Matches
Germany find themselves in Group F, with three games to play against Mexico, Sweden, and South Korea. While the South Koreans are unlikely to be too much of a threat, both Mexico and Sweden could trouble the Germans if they find form at the right time. Mexico have made it to the Round of 16 in each of the last six World Cups, which is a pretty amazing record. They’ll be expected to join Die Mannschaft in the top 16, even though they’ve been criticised for suffering big losses in key matches.
The game against Sweden could also be tricky for the Germans, with the new Swedish team under Janne Andersson likely to implement a 4-4-2 structure reminiscent of the successful period under Lars Lagerback. While the Swedes may suffer from the loss of superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the loss of such a huge personality may just be a blessing in disguise. Realistically, however, Sweden will be fighting for the second qualifying spot against Mexico, with Germany almost guaranteed to move on to the knockout stages.
The Real Competition
The real competition for Germany will come in the knockout rounds, with a number of sides capable of stepping up for big games. While Brazil are the obvious competition, other teams that could trouble Germany include Argentina, Spain, Portugal, and France. While not as likely due to lack of big tournament experience, Belgium also look incredibly good and even England are in good shape. When you include outsiders such as Croatia and Colombia, you start to remember that in the World Cup, anything is possible.