Germany - World Cup 2014 Team Profile
Mike Tuckerman reports
Road to Brazil
To suggest it was plain sailing as Germany sauntered to the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals in Brazil is an understatement. So total was the dominance of coach Joachim Löw's side that the only real danger inherent in Group C of UEFA qualifying was the risk of losing key players to injury. Germany kick-started its journey to Brazil with routine 3-0 win over the Faroe Islands, with Arsenal midfielder Mesut Özil scoring twice. It was to be a familiar refrain, with Özil topping the scoring with eight goals as Germany cantered to the finals - dropping just two points along the way.
The first real test was swiftly negotiated in Vienna, where Austria was clinically dispatched 2-1 in front of a partisan home crowd. A 6-1 thrashing of Ireland in Dublin soon followed, before the Germans dropped their only points of the group - conceding a stoppage-time equaliser against Sweden in a thrilling 4-4 draw in Berlin.
After that, it was not so much a matter of if but when as Löw's free-wheeling side trounced Kazakhstan both home and away, hammered Austria 3-0 in front of a raucous crowd in Munich, beat the Irish by the same score line in Cologne and finished up with an entertaining 5-3 romp over group runners-up Sweden on the road in Stockholm.
Germany Kit 1
Germany Kit 2
Can Germany cope without Marco Reus? That's the key question after the Borussia Dortmund star was ruled out of the World Cup following an ankle injury in Germany's final warm-up game against Armenia.
Reus' absence is undoubtedly a blow - not least because the versatile attacking talent rattled home five goals in qualifying - but the Germans have plenty of cover on hand. Indeed, with coach Löw pointing out that no less than seven potential replacements in Lukas Podolski, Andre Schürrle, Mario Götze, Thomas Müller, Mesut Özil, Julian Draxler and Toni Kroos are already available to stand in for Reus, he didn't even bother calling up another attacking replacement.
Instead, Löw opted to recall Shkodran Mustafi - an Italian-based defender of Albanian extraction - and it's at the back where most questions will be asked. Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is Germany's undisputed number one, but the Bayern Munich shot-stopper goes into the tournament under an injury cloud, with understudy Ron-Robert Zieler and 33-year-old Roman Weidenfeller inexperienced at international level.
Skipper Philipp Lahm is the regular routinier in defence, but elsewhere experience is thin on the ground - the obvious exception of Per Mertesacker notwithstanding. Indeed, with the likes of Mustafi, Erik Durm and Freiburg defender Matthias Ginter having played just four internationals between them, there's a concerted air of building for the future - despite the fact Germany are nevertheless expected to feature at the business end of this tournament.
With Bayern Munich bulldog Bastian Schweinsteiger anchoring the midfield, there's no shortage of experience between the lines, especially with the 114-time capped Lukas Podolski operating alongside him. Elsewhere, the attacking thrust will come largely from Özil and potentially the versatile Müller, with the German side blessed with an enviable array of creative talent.Up front, Löw has opted for the tried and tested experience of 35-year-old Lazio striker Miroslav Klose, with suitable striking replacements jettisoned along the way. Klose is closing in on Brazilian striker Ronaldo's all-time World Cup goal scoring record, but Germany can ill-afford to lose their main marksman during the tournament.
Key player: Miroslav Klose
Özil may have stolen the limelight during qualifying, but the evergreen Klose is Germany's all-time top scorer for a reason. So confident was Löw in the prolific target man's scoring ability that he ignored experienced Fiorentina striker Mario Gomez's claims for a place in the final squad.
Strong on the ball and deadly in the air, this is Klose's final chance to win a World Cup with Germany, and the popular front man is unlikely to waste it.
One to watch: Toni Kroos
There's no shortage of attacking talent on hand in a prodigiously gifted squad, which probably explains why Bayern Munich midfielder Toni Kroos continues to fly under the radar. A technically accomplished, two-footed whirlwind of vision and precise passing, Kroos is virtually metronomic with his unerring distribution.About the only missing from the Bayern playmaker's arsenal are goals, but even without them, this 24-year-old star-in-the-making could be the one to watch in the German midfield.
Coach: Joachim Löw
Third time's a charm for Jogi Löw? The German coach will certainly hope so. Assistant to Jürgen Klinsmann when Germany finished third on home soil in 2006, Löw stepped up to the hot-seat shortly thereafter, but saw his side finish third at a second consecutive World Cup in South Africa.A disappointing semi-final exit at Euro 2012 in between means the pressure is on Löw to prove he's not an also-ran, and the former professional player will need to play his cards right to manage immense expectations on what is an admittedly battle-hardened squad. Should Löw fail in his mission, he may not be around as German coach for much longer.
1938, 1978 First round; 1974 Second Round; 1962, 1994, 1998 Quarter finals; 1958 Fourth place; 1934, 1970, 2006, 2010 Third place; 1966, 1982, 1986, 2002 Runners up; 1954, 1974, 1990 champions.
It's about time Germany lived up to its undoubted promise, and anything less than an appearance in the final at Maracana is likely to constitute a failure for Löw and his talented side. How Germany handles the heat of Brazil's north-east may play a role in the group stage, but ultimately the tricolour of black, red and gold could well be flying once the World Cup final kicks off on July 13.
2014 World Cup Squad
Goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Roman Weidenfeller (Borussia Dortmund), Ron-Robert Zieler (Hannover)
Defenders: Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich), Erik Durm (Borussia Dortmund), Kevin Grosskreutz (Borussia Dortmund), Benedikt Howedes (Schalke), Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund), Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich), Per Mertesacker (Arsenal).
Midfielders: Julian Draxler (Schalke), Matthias Ginter (Freiburg), Mario Gotze (Bayern Munich), Christoph Kramer (Borussia Monchengladbach), Sami Khedira (Real Madrid), Toni Kroos (Bayern Munich), Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal), Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund), Andre Schurrle (Chelsea), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich)
Strikers: Miroslav Klose (Lazio), Lukas Podolski (Arsenal)