By: Lorenzo Marquez (@iirenzo)
Germany have their sights set on a second straight World Cup title. Nobody has done so, quite literally, since Nam when Brazil won in 1958 and 1962 with Pele and Co. Evidently, even the World Cup, a quadrennial tournament, comes with a hangover; Each of the last four winners have struggled mightily as reigning champions in this tournament. Brazil, the 2002 champions, were knocked out of the 2006 quarterfinal after making the final in three straight World Cups, winning in '94 and finishing runner up in '98. Italy, the 2006 champions, got their shit pushed in and failed to win a single match in 2010. Spain, the 2010 champions, were thoroughly bodied as favorites in 2014, finishing third in group play.
With this trend in mind, don’t let twitter, or Abel , crown Les Bleus just yet. I'd like to, perhaps naively, declare that Germany will be different. The Germans did not tip toe into this tournament. The team's qualifying record for the 2018 World Cup was 10-0, setting a record of 43 goals scored in that stretch -- the most in World Cup or UEFA Euro qualifying history. Sumn light. No country, nor reigning champ, is safe in this tournament, but the Germans are coming in guns blazing after they've reloaded with young talent and retained a great level of depth to combat possible injuries to the starting eleven. Their combination of experience, youth and overall talent level remains as good as any country.
Germany are coming for everyone’s lunch money, and they’re going to do it while living up to every single one of those shitty German Soccer stereotypes; At their best, they have a surgical style filled with poise and execution. This 2018 team embodies what we've come to expect from the German side: a defensively anchored team with plug-n-play depth at every position. Their team chemistry is high and they carry an unmatched swagger in international footy with *clears throat* an undefeated record in penalties at the World Cup of 4-0.
To brief the final 23 man roster, star keeper #1 Manuel Neuer is back from a foot injury he suffered in September. There are valid concerns surrounding Neuer’s form and fitness, considering he hasn't made an appearance since the injury. It seems as though German Management still have the utmost faith in the 2014 Golden Glove winner. I'll avoid blowing smoke, though, as German Manager Joachim Low has the next best thing to plunk in net if needed with Barcelona’s starting keeper: #22 Marc-Andre Ter Stegen. Frankly, Ter Stegen would be an automatic No 1. keeper for the vast majority of countries not named Germany.
On the back end, Germany can lock up with arguably the best centerback pairing in the tournament with #17 Jerome Boateng and #5 Mats Hummels, both of whom play club soccer with Neuer. Every team struggles offensively at times and if, for whatever unlikely reason, the the German side struggle early in Russia, and the goals don't come easy, this pairing will be key in keeping the team alive.
The fullback position seems to be drawing the only concern this go round. It’s no secret the Germans are without their 2014 captain, Philipp Lahm, who was once considered both the best right fullback and left fullback in the world. Lahm has more World Cup Final victories than all current players on the French national team combined. I sleep. Former Bayern Munich and current Manchester City Manager, Pep Guardiola, regards Lahm as, “perhaps the most intelligent player I’ve ever trained in my career.” Replacing Lahm is impossible, but #18 Joshua Kimmich, the twenty-three year old year old rightback, has taken on the starting role with class since Euro 2016 and hasn’t looked back. Predictably, his play has been compared to Lahm's, and Kilmich has impressed. He's a very comfortable passer, a good crosser and Low sings his praises, claiming Kilmich is, “one of the greatest talents I have seen in a decade.”
The German midfield is probably the best in the world, led by the, “one-man orchestra,” #8 Toni Kroos. He's the star of the team and the entire operation is centered around his efficient, precise passing. Kroos attempts more passes/game than anyone in La Liga with over 76, yet, he still boasts one of the highest successful pass percentages at 93%. The entire soccer community has a half chub on for the Real Madrid man, and If Kroos is given time and space he will pick defenses apart. This formidable group also includes the likes of #6 Sami Khedira, #7 Julian Draxler, #21 Ilkay Gundogan, #10 Mesut Ozil and #11 Marco Reus.
Reus and Ozil are x-factors here. Die Mannschaft were able to add a star to their crest in 2014 without Reus, the electric winger from Dortmund, who managed to suffer devastating injuries just prior to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Euros. German fans will rejoice at the sight of this young star on the World Cup stage. Ozil is the known entity; He creates opportunities with flashes of brilliance. The questions surrounding him are that of consistency, and many wonder which version of Ozil we'll get in Russia. The high-end of Ozil can put Germany over the top and all eyes will be on him to play to his potential.
On the attack is #13 Thomas Muller or the, “interpreter of space,” who always seems to be at the right place at the right time in World Cup matches. Muller scored 10 goals in the past two World Cups combined; That's 10 more goals than megastars Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Gareth Bale scored combined. Sheesh. Jokes aside though, Muller is tied for fifth most goals scored in World Cup history. The preferred striker for Germany will likely be the young buck, #9 Timo Werner, an absolute screamer who showed off his pace while scoring 7 goals in 12 appearances leading up to the World Cup. Werner's speed will be a luxury that wasn't afforded to the team in 2014, and it will be interesting to see how he's utilized. This is the deepest 23 in Russia this summer. Yea...@equipedefrance.
Below is Germany's projected starting 11 in a 4-2-3-1, according to the Guardian. Outside of Neuer in place of Ter Stegen, look for these players to start on Sunday vs. El Tri at 8 AM Pacific.
Germany’s 2014 core heads to Russia more experienced, kickstarting a new chapter that doesn’t include legends Philipp Lahm, Miroslav Klose and the only goal scorer from the 2014 World Cup Final -- Mario Gotze. These are serious shoes to fill but Joachim Low has plugged in very fresh, young footballers while retaining a stellar core that is just as talented as the Brazilians and the French. As you can see above, the German side will be a formidable opponent for anyone they face. France and Brazil are the most likely usurpers in the tournament. Although, would be a real shame if the French got bounced early. Real shame.