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Germany: Team Preview - 2014 FIFA World Cup

Germany will fancy their chances at the World Cup Germany will be heading into the World Cup as one of the favorites, eager to break the 3rd place ...

Germany will fancy their chances at the World Cup

Germany will be heading into the World Cup as one of the favorites, eager to break the 3rd place curse that has been bestowed on them. The German team is made of global superstars who epitomize the beautiful attacking football that transformed and replaced the effective, resolute style of play that Germany was known for. This would be the 15th consecutive World cup that Germany have qualified for, winning it thrice (1954, 1974, 1990) and finishing runners up on four occasions.

Germany’s history at the World Cup

Germany first qualified for the World Cup in 1934 where they finished 3rd. They were also part of the 1938 edition where they crashed out in the first round. Following a spell on the sidelines, due to the Nazi regime, the disaster of the World War and the subsequent partition, they qualified for the 1954 edition of the World Cup as West Germany. They finished as winners of that tournament, defeating Hungary in the final after having lost the group match against Hungary 3-8 (hence the name ‘Miracle of Bern’).

Their second success at the grand stage came 20 years later in 1974 where they lost only 1 match (ironically against East Germany in the group stage) enroute to the title. Having finished runners up twice in 1982 and 1986, they finally claimed a 3rd World Cup in 1990. This edition would be remembered as one of their best performances as they were undefeated throughout the tournament.

In the last 5 tournaments, Germany have reached the finals only once in 2002 where they were defeated by an efficient Brazilian side. They were knocked out of the quarter finals in 1994 and 1998 by Bulgaria and Croatia respectively. They have featured in all the semi finals since 2002, but have been unable to reach the finals as they lost to eventual champions Italy in 2006 and Spain in 2010. They would be hoping to go one better and claim the trophy this year.                    

Germany's record at the World Cup

Year

How they fared

1930

Did not participate

1934

Third Place

1938

First Round

1954

Winners

1958

Fourth Place

1962

Quarter Finals

1966

Runners Up

1970

Third Place

1974 (As West Germany)

Winners

1974 (As East Germany)

Second Round

1978

Second Round

1982

Runners Up

1986

Runners Up

1990

Winners

1994

Quarter Finals

1998

Quarter Finals

2002

Runners Up

2006

Third Place

2010

Third Place


Best Performance in a World Cup

History would point to the fact that the 1990 triumph in Italy is Germany’s best performance in a tournament as they didn’t lose a single match. However, the 1974 world cup success was seen as the golden moment in German footballing history. They would go down in history as the team that denied the all-conquering and ‘Total Football’ playing Netherlands side. It will also be remembered for several other reasons, it was the first World Cup to be recorded in Technicolor, a new trophy was introduced which was called the FIFA World Cup and it came after the Munich Olympics massacre in 1972 where 11 Israeli athletes were murdered.

The interesting part about this World Cup was that there was a format change- a second phase group stage replaced the knock-out rounds after the preliminary round. This would ensure that half the teams would play at least six matches in the tournament. The four groups of four teams would become two groups of four teams in phase two. Both winners of the second phase groups would play in the World Cup final itself, whereas the two runners-up would meet in the bronze match.

Germany (known as West Germany) came into the 1974 tournament on the back of impressive campaigns in the previous two World Cups finishing runners up and third place respectively. They were the favourites for the World Cup as in 1972 they had won the European Championships in a convincing way. The first group stage saw West Germany being paired with Chile, Australia and East Germany. They defeated both Chile and Australia with ease. However, a surprise loss against East Germany appeared to derail their campaign. The defeat though turned out to be a silver lining as they were able to avoid both Netherlands and Brazil in the next group stage.

West Germany, because of that loss ended up being paired with Poland, Yugoslavia and Sweden. This group had Poland and West Germany winning all their matches before it came down to a last game decider between them. There was nothing to choose between the sides in a fiercely competitive game but when West Germany needed a goal, it was Gerd Muller, possibly the greatest goal scorer of all time who delivered the all-important goal clinching a fplace in the final 14 minutes from time.

Franz Beckenbauer lifting the trophy after the 1974 final

The World Cup final at Munich’s Olympiastadion, was a clash between the flair and finesse of Cruyff’s Holland against the majestic efficiency of Beckenbauer’s West Germany, the two best players in the world facing off for its biggest prize. Nearly a minute into the match, Netherlands were awarded a controversial penalty when Uli Hoeness fouled the brilliant Cruyff. Johan Neeskens converted the penalty giving the Dutch the lead and this was without the Germans even getting a touch on the ball.

The Dutch were on top of their game playing their “Total Football” style to perfection, tormenting the German midfield and defence in the first quarter of an hour. However, the Germans were not a side to give up so easily. Buoyed by the tactical intelligence and rock solid defence of Beckenbauer, the German team slowly started gaining an upper hand in the game. They were awarded a penalty on 25 minutes which was duly converted by Paul Breitner. By half time, West Germany were ahead, Muller pouncing on a loose ball when he seemed second favourite to get it, drilling it in to give West Germany the lead.

From then on the Dutch could never recover and their spirit and fight was completely broken in the second half. Beckenbauer took the game by the scruff of the neck and contained Cruyff and the Germans cruised to victory on the back of their strongest performance.

Road to the World Cup

Germany had the second best qualifying campaign, where they notched up nine victories and a single draw, topping Group C with 28 points. They were 8 points clear of their nearest challengers, Sweden. Top spot in the group gave them automatic passage to the finals in Brazil.


POS

TEAM

P

W

D

L

F

A

GD

Points

1

Germany

10

9

1

0

36

10

26

28

2

Sweden

10

6

2

2

19

14

5

20

3

Austria

10

5

2

3

20

10

10

17

4

Republic of Ireland

10

4

2

4

16

17

-1

14

5

Kazakhstan

10

1

2

7

6

21

-15

5

6

Faroe Islands

10

0

1

9

4

29

-25

1

Key - POS: Position, P: Games Played, W: Wins, D: Draws, L: Losses, F: Goals Scored, A: Goals Against, GD: Goal Difference


Germany had an easy start to their qualifying campaign, a home tie against Faroe Islands whom they trumped 3-0. They followed that up with a tough 2-1 away win against Austria, with Mesut Ozil converting the all-important penalty and an emphatic 6-1 drubbing of Republic of Ireand.

The match against Sweden would well have been the game of the qualifying phase as, Germany raced into a 4-0 lead. Miroslav Klose (twice), Per Mertesacker and Ozil had all found the net before the hour mark dismantling the Swedish defense at will. However, with less than an hour remaining a Zlatan Ibramovic goal started the comeback which involved a four-goal spree that ended with a 93rd minute equalizer, leaving the final score at 4-4.

Back-to-back wins over Kazakhstan, 3-0 away and 4-1 at home, restored normal proceedings and then Austria were defeated 3-0. They defeated both Faroe Islands and Republic of Ireland 3-0 to ensure that they would finish as group leaders. The last match saw another goal fest against Sweden, which Germany ended up winning 5-3 after going 2-0 down initially.
 

Squad

Goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer, Roman Weidenfeller,Ron-Robert Zieler

Defenders: Eric Durm, Jerome Boateng, Kevin Großkreutz, Benedict Höwedes, Matt Hummels, Marcell Jansen, Phillip Lahm, Per Mertesacker, Shkodran Mustafi, Marcel Schmelzer.

Midfielders: Lars Bender, Julian Draxler, Matthias Ginter, Leon Goretzka, Mario Götze, André Hahn, Sami Khedira, Toni Kroos, Max Meyer, Thomas Müller, Mesut Ozil, Marco Reus.

Joachim Loew has made some surprising inclusions in his preliminary 30 man squad. He has again ensured a team with the right mix of experienced players and youth. The squad includes experienced players like Miroslav Klose, Philip Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Podolski, Mesut Ozil and Per Mertesacker, Thomas Muller and Manuel Neuer.

He has named relatively unknown players such as Sampdoria defender Shkodran Mustafi, Freiburg defender Matthias Ginter and Dortmund winger cum full back Erik Durm.

Mario Gomez was left out due to his persistent injury problems and loss of form while there was also no place for goalkeepers Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Rene Adler.

However, the most disappointing news remains that Lars Bender will miss the tournament due to a thigh injury. Several players like Philip Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Manuel Neuer, and Miroslav Klose have had gruelling seasons and will be hoping to return to full fitness soon. Real Madrid’s Sami Khedira is also just back from a cruciate ligament tear last year. He started the Champions League final but looked woefully short of match fitness. Loew would hope that these key players regain full fitness as in the next couple of weeks.

A surprising last-minute change was made to the preliminary World Cup squad recently as midfielder Christoph Kramer was called in to replace forward Andre Hahn.

Coach

Joachim Loew will look to go one step further this year

Joachim Loew, a former striker was never able to break into the elite category of players. He had moderately successful spells in Germany, Turkey and Austria, and was virtually unknown when he joined the national team as assistant to Jurgen Klinsmann in 2004. Loew, flourished under his old friend Klinsmann, rapidly developing a reputation as a detailed planner and a smart innovator. He succeeded Klinsmann in 2006 and deployed interesting methods and continued the style initiated by his former colleague.

They finished as runners up in Euro 2008 and 2012 to Spain and achieved a third place finish at the 2010 World Cup. Loew’s dream, hence, would be to see his team crowned champions at Brazil following their heartache in the last 3 tournaments.

One of the things that stand out about Loew is his adaptability and willingness to make changes even when things are proceeding well. He takes bold decisions and no player is guaranteed a place based on their reputation. This was evident in the 2010 World Cup where Loew fielded the youngest German World Cup team in 76 years.

A dazzling mix of youth and experience, the current squad has a stamp of Loew’s philosophy written all over it.

Formation and Tactics

Germany’s success on the international arena has been their ability to play adventurous, fluid football with great technique and creativity in the final third. The reason for them being a complete team is that their style of football is supplemented by defensive solidity and organization. The entire squad is capable of playing the pressing style and denying the opposition room or time to play.

The success and the discipline of the team can be attributed to Loew as he was the one who took the bold decision of changing the successful 4-4-2 (under Klinsmann’s era) to a more effective 4-2-3-1. This formation allows the team to have plenty of movement as there are players who are capable of interchanging their positions during a match.

The team of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira in the midfield offer physicality, technical and tactical brilliance. However, with Khedira still not completely fit, Toni Kroos would provide a top class alternative with more ability to attack and unlock defences. The team relies on the full backs to get forward with support play and controlled build-up, while the wider attacking midfielders have great movement and the ability to score goals, regardless of who starts.

Germany in their 4-2-3-1

With the threat of injuries looming large for Germany before the World Cup starts, Loew could throw a surprise in terms of team formation. Loew could field a False 9 formation which can be a solution to his current problems. Typically it is again a 4-2-3-1 formation but without an out and out striker, it relies on the interchanging of positions between midfielders.

When Loew announced his sqaud list for the World Cup qualifier against Kazakhstan, it raised quite a few eyebrows. With Klose injured for that match Loew packed his team with a plethora of midfield talent that was available at his disposal. Germany went on to win that game quite convincingly, so Loew might rely on using it quite often to unsettle the opponents as well as addressing the injury concerns.

The advantage for Loew to play this is the versatality of his gifted midfielders. Thomas Müller, Andre Schurrle, Mesut Özil, Mario Götze and Marco Reus are all players with the goal scoring instinct and ability to manoeuvre in tight spaces.

The latter three have even been employed in the false 9 role in friendlies: Reus, in the Argentina friendly last August; Götze, in the 0-0 draw against the Netherlands; and Özil played as false 9 after Gomez was subbed off in the France friendly — which Germany came back to win 2-1, defeating France for the first time in 26 years. Hence, the incentive is there for Loew to confound teams, with the movement and the positional changes of front 4 either as an option from the start or during the game.

Germany lining up in a false nine

Best Starting XI

Selecting a starting XI from a squad which is as talented as the German national team would be manager’s dream as well as nightmare. However, keeping in mind Loew’s philosophy and tactics he might end up choosing a team that would be a perfect mix of experience and youth. The defense more or less would be easy to pick. The midfield and the forward would be a dilemma for Loew depending on his tactics and the availability of players. The expected starting XI for Germany might be as below

Goalkeeper – Manuel Neuer

Defenders – Phillip Lahm, Per Metesacker, Mats Humels, Jerome Boateng

Defensive Midfielders/Pivot – Tony Kroos, Bastian Schweinsteiger

Attacking Midfield – Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Marco Reus

Forward – Miroslav Klose

Prediction

Germany is placed in Group G, along with Portugal, Ghana and USA. While not an easy group, they should be confident they have more than enough to take two victories at least, and probably go unbeaten overall.  It promises to be tough run of fixtures and things could get steamy in Group G, with an emotional encounter between Jurgen Klinsmann led USA and Loew’s Germany. Portugal and USA will be the two fixtures that might create some problems for Germany and if they escape it unscathed they should more or less qualify. 

Germany is billed as one of the favourites because of their impressive qualifying campaign, previous performances and a great squad filled with talented players. Miroslav Klose is also bidding to be the all time record scorer in World Cups and I see him as being the surprise package in the tournament.

On the back of this Germany should top the group. This would potentially set up a rematch against the 2002 semi finalists South Korea who should finish runners up in Group H. South Korea should not provide a very stern test to the German team. Germany would then end up facing France which might be prove to be a tricky affair. A victory could potentially set up a rematch against Brazil to whom they lost in the 2002 finals.

To beat the home team on their own turf would require Germany to be at their absolute best. If Germany are able to perform better than they did in their qualifying campaign it would be very difficult for the opponents to derail them. Barring any upsets or loss in form, Germany is capable of reaching the finals and hopefully winning the World Cup after 24 years!

To see other Team Previews : 2014 FIFA World Cup Team Previews

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