World champions Germany made their way to the finals in remarkable style, taking a perfect 10 wins from 10 in the qualifiers – just the second team in history to manage that feat after Spain in 2010. As well-rounded and efficient as ever, no fewer than 21 players found the target over Die Mannschaft’s qualifying campaign (43 goals scored), with Bayern Munich duo Thomas Müller and Sandro Wagner heading the charts with five a piece.
Now the hard part begins for coach Joachim Löw. From Germany’s 2014 World Cup winning squad, Miroslav Klose, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm are the most notable retirees. Fortunately for him, a number of up and coming talents must have made putting together his 23-man World Cup squad the right kind of difficult.
Manuel NEUER (Bayern Munich, 32 years old)
Marc-Andre TER STEGEN (Barcelona, 26 years old)
Kevin TRAPP (Paris Saint-Germain, 27 years old)
Mats HUMMELS (Bayern Munich, 29 years old)
Jerome BOATENG (Bayern Munich, 29 years old)
Niklas SÜLE (Bayern Munich, 22 years old)
Joshua KIMMICH (Bayern Munich, 23 years old)
Jonas HECTOR (Cologne, 27 years old)
Antonio RÜDIGER (Chelsea, 25 years old)
Matthias GINTER (Borussia Monchengladbach, 24 years old)
Marvin PLATTENHARDT (Hertha Berlin, 26 years old)
Mesut ÖZIL (Arsenal, 29 years old)
Toni KROOS (Real Madrid, 28 years old)
Sami KHEDIRA (Juventus, 31 years old)
Julian DRAXLER (Paris Saint-Germain, 24 years old)
Leon GORETZKA (Schalke 04, 23 years old)
Ilkay GÜNDOGAN (Manchester City, 27 years old)
Julian BRANDT (Bayer Leverkusen, 22 years old)
Sebastian RUDY (Bayern Munich, 28 years old)
Timo WERNER (RB Leipzig, 22 years old)
Thomas MÜLLER (Bayern Munich, 28 years old)
Marco REUS (Borussia Dortmund, 28 years old)
Mario GOMEZ (VfB Stuttgart, 32 years old)
Even though Manuel Neuer hasn’t played since suffering a metatarsal break back in September 2017, he is one player worth gambling on. Neuer marked his return to full first-team training during the week and his presence adds a layer of security to the last line of defense that no other nation has – he is arguably the best of his generation. Time is fast running out for Neuer to prove his form and fitness for the summer, though. Should he not get a game before then (he may feature in Bayern Munich’s DFB Pokal final or either of Germany’s pre-tournament friendlies), Joachim Low has already stated that Marc-Andre ter Stegen is penciled in as his replacement – is there be a better back-up goalkeeper in Russia?
The rest of Germany’s spine is built around that of the 2014 World Cup winners and needs very little introduction: Bayern Munich’s Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng comprise a formidable defensive duo, while Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira provide both strength and balance in the middle of the park. Arsenal’s Mesut Özil, though absent for chunks of the domestic season, has quality and experience unmatched by most, which should guarantee him a spot. As does Thomas Müller.
Regarding the remaining roles, it goes without saying that Löw has plenty of alternatives in each position at the ready, but the versatility of Joshua Kimmich should make him one of the first names on the team-sheet. His vision, energy and reading of the game make him an almost ready-made replacement for former team-mate Philipp Lahm at right back. At left back, Cologne’s Jonas Hector looks to have cemented his place since making his international debut back in November 2014.
One spot looks to be up for grabs in attacking midfield, with Julian Draxler, Leroy Sane, Leon Goretzka, and Marco Reus all in contention. Draxler and Goretzka have both already made names for themselves at the international level in the 2017 Confederations Cup. Not to mention their remarkable individual efforts at PSG and Schalke 04 over the course of the 17/18 season. Leroy Sane, however, is also fresh off the back of a dominant domestic campaign with Manchester City, so it looks to be a tough call for Joachim Löw.
Up front, Leipzig forward Timo Werner should be the first-choice-out-and-out striker. Germany’s forwards are arguably the weakest link in the squad (if you can really call them weak…) and other than Werner, the Germans will be relying on either veteran Mario Gomez or players adapted into the lone forward role. Dortmund’s Marco Reus is one of those players, though he’s missed Germany’s last two major tournaments through injury. Löw’s decision to leave the in-form Sandro Wagner behind, therefore, seems strange.
Germany also feature in our World Cup Trends: Previous Winners Stats And Facts article.
Star Player: Thomas Muller
There are many in the Germany squad that could be named the “Star Player”, but Müller’s versatility makes him the stand-out performer. Muller plays a variety of attacking roles – as an attacking midfielder, second striker, centre forward and on either wing – and his positioning, teamwork, stamina, and work-rate are among the best in the world – that’s before we even get started with his contribution through both goals and assists!
Although he lacks physical strength, Müller has also been praised for his technique, awareness, and tactical intelligence, with coach Joachim Löw also saying he is “impervious to pressure”. Müller himself describes his role as an “interpreter of space”, being a very free-flowing and unorthodox player in terms of his running, but regularly finds himself in goal-scoring positions. His form in past World Cups speak for themselves too – the German claimed the Golden Boot in 2010 (5 goals) and Silver Boot in 2014 (5 goals).
One to Watch: Timo Werner
If Muller is the seasoned veteran Germany cannot do without, Timo Werner is the young gun ready to take the football world by storm. Werner was playing for Germany’s Under 19s four years ago, but a rapid ripening process has rocketed him to the front of the line in terms of forwards. At a domestic level, Leipzig’s prodigal youngster has hit double figures in each of his last two Bundesliga seasons – his 21 goals in 16/17 helping RB Leipzig to Champions League football directly after promotion into the German top flight.
Werner has also been proving his worth at an international level too, though. He was joint-top scorer at the 2017 Confederations Cup, and with seven goals in just twelve international outings, the future looks bright for the young German. Whether he can handle the pressure to rise up and eventually surpass veteran marksman Miroslav Klose is another matter altogether…
Check out some of the other potential breakout stars this summer in Russia
Germany will likely start the World Cup with their typical 4-2-3-1 formation. Joachim Löw’s side will be efficient and stick to their game-plan, with well-planned movement and strong team spirit, and their main focus will be on hard work and commitment to the profession out on the pitch. If all players are ready in time for the the opener against Mexico on the 17th June, Germany’s starting XI should look something like this:
Germany: Neuer – Hector, Boateng, Hummels, Kimmich – Khedira, Kroos – Reus, Ozil, Muller – Werner
Coach: Joachim Löw
Germany have one of the strongest player pools to choose from heading into the 2018 Russia World Cup and you have to like the odds on the Germans to make another deep run. Whether or not the Germans can claim a fifth World Cup title is up for debate, however!
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