Brazil are the current favorites to win the World Cup in 2014. However, given their development over the last 13 years at international level and Bayern Munich's and Borussia Dortmund's success in the Champions League this year, Germany are best placed as the front-runner for a World Cup victory.
Brazil 2014 is only one year away, with the hosts as the only confirmed participants. When the dust has finally settled on the qualification campaign, Germany will enter the month-long tournament as one of the teams to beat.
Their rank as potential winners is well-deserved. Over the last decade-and-a-half, German football has been completely revolutionized.
Germany were knocked out of Euro 2000 at the group stage after losing twice to Portugal and England, who beat their old enemy for the first time since 1966, and drawing with a poor Romanian side. That they failed to reach the knockout stages of a major tournament for the first time since 1984 caused a huge introspection into German football as a whole.
One year later, England destroyed Germany 5-1 in Munich in World Cup qualification, and all of a sudden, everyone realized that the game was in mortal danger. Football and how it was coached and taught, at all levels, needed to be changed.
As a result of a mass debate, the Deutscher Fussball-Bund (the German Football Association) determined, in conjunction with the Bundesliga, that domestic football coaching had to be overhauled dramatically.
Die Mannschaft did manage to finish second at the 2002 World Cup with the last generation prior to the coming change in philosophy. This triumph would have swayed a lesser footballing federation than the DFB, but they knew that real victories could be achieved in a better way.
By the time they were knocked out of Euro 2004 at the group stage, the change in culture was well and truly under way.
Today, we can see the benefits of that complete change of direction and philosophy. FC Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, two of Europe's most entertaining teams, are ready to lock horns at Wembley on May 25 in the Champions League final.
When the two teams take to the famous Wembley turf, no less than 12 German players are expected to play. That total would have hit 14 if it weren't for injuries to Bayern stalwarts Toni Kroos and Holger Badstuber.
Manuel Neuer is the undisputed German No. 1 and is easily one of the top goalkeepers in the world. Philipp Lahm has been the best full-back in the world for the last five years, Jerome Boateng has developed into an accomplished center- and left-back, and Badstuber usually accompanies him or Dortmund's brilliant Mats Hummels at the center. The rise of Dortmund's Marcel Schmelzer at left-back completes a fearsome back line.
Bastian Schweinsteiger is the lynchpin of both the German and Bayern team and controls center-midfield with a vise grip. His evolution from a right-sided midfielder to screening midfielder has been one of the key elements of both his national team and club team's success.
At Euro 2012, he formed a hugely impressive midfield trident with Real Madrid's Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil. They interchange positions beautifully and test the opposition with skill, creativity, pace, power and a maturity that is only found in top-class players.
The Madrid pair, formerly of Stuttgart and Werder Bremen, respectively, will be favored to retain their positions in Brazil 2014. They will, however, come under massive pressure from Dortmund's central pairing of Sven Bender and Ilkay Gundogan and playmakers supreme Marco Reus and Mario Gotze, who will be a Bayern player next season. And don't forget the irrepressible Thomas Muller.
The one area of the pitch where Germany are short on world-class talent is center-forward. Veteran Miroslav Klose is still around, and the 34-year-old is still finding the back of the net at international level, if not club level. He is not renowned for his levels of stamina and he will be 36 by the time the World Cup starts.
Nationalized Brazilian and 32-year-old Cacau has made recent squads. But in reality, he is no more than a stopgap player.
That leaves Bayern Munich's Mario Gomez as the only real striker Joachim Low has at his disposal. Stefan Kiessling may have enjoyed a very good season with Bayer Leverkusen, having scored 24 goals in 38 games, but since Low took over in 2006, he has only given the 29-year-old six caps.
By the time the World Cup comes around, he will have had to find another striker to rival, or replace, Gomez. The current forerunners are German U-21 international Pierre-Michel Lasogga, or the more likely left-sided players Andre Schurrle and Lukas Podolski being moved inside as traditional center-forwards.
Their move away from reactive play to proactive play may even mean that Low chooses to go without a traditional striker in Brazil. His squad will be well-stocked with quick, agile, creative players who are physically strong and positionally flexible. In this way, Low's favored 4-2-3-1 formation can be easily adapted to a 4-6-0, similar to Spain's at Euro 2012.
High-level international football is all about utilizing space, specifically the small spaces available near the opponents and the larger spaces behind the defense.
Germany, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have highly mobile players all over the pitch and control this space jealously. They are more than capable of adapting to any opponent.
Not only will Germany arrive in Brazil with a variety of riches on the playing field, they will also come as one of the best-prepared nations in the tournament.
Germany has qualified for every World Cup since 1934, with the exception of 1950, as it was banned from competing after World War II. They have only finished outside the top eight once, and that was in 1938.
They have won the World Cup three times, finished as runners-up four times and finished third four times.
In short, Germany know how to prepare for, and then play in, a competition. Nothing is left to chance, and key coaching, training and preparation successes for each tournament are passed on to the next regime. This way, each time they enter a tournament, they are impeccably readied, unlike other nations like England who start off from square one every four years.
One element that is also essential to success is fitness.
At the World Cup, Germany will arrive at their base having acclimated to the Brazilian climate and set about guiding their players toward their natural peak. As a rule, Germany have always had incredibly fit players with a highly professional and pragmatic philosophy and attitude.
The change of coaching philosophy in German football has also seen a change in how fitness is coached. Physical training is now accomplished smarter than ever. This has seen Germany blow their lesser-prepared opponents away over the last four years.
Last September, Germany traveled to Ireland to take on Giovanni Trapattoni's plucky Irish side. The Germans were red-hot favorites and, in truth, were never going to lose this match. However, their 6-1 mauling exposed not only Ireland's technical inefficiencies, but also the massive physical gap between the two teams. Germany were bigger, faster and stronger in every single department.
Add that to Bayern Munich's ruthless dissection of Barcelona's mind, body and soul in the Champions League semifinals. How the Bavarians physically dominated the supposedly fittest team on the planet through sheer pace and power was a lesson in itself.
They are a powerful and technical force of nature.
They also have an incredibly good manager in Joachim Low.
Germany have done nothing but impress since Low took over as national team coach in July 2006 after working as Jurgen Klinsmann's assistant for two years.
At the World Cup in 2006, under Klinsmann, Germany finished third. They repeated that feat at South Africa 2010.
They were beaten by Spain 1-0 at the final of Euro 2008 and finished third at Euro 2012, which Spain also won.
Low's attacking philosophy and insistence on incisive passing and combination play over counterattacking has seen the German style change hugely since 2006. He has introduced a flair and steely resolve that has never been seen in equal amounts in a German team. His team always sets out to take the initiative and dictate the tempo of the game.
They capitalize upon their superb fitness and technical ability to control the game space and condense play when they do not have the ball and then stretch the field when they gain possession.
They are the perfect example of how to play football on its merits.
At Brazil 2014, they will not have to contend with the same rampant and indomitable Spanish side that won Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012.
Bayern's and Dortmund's recent successes over Barcelona and Real Madrid have put that particular ghost to bed. German players now know that they are more than a match technically for any side on the planet and that they are physically superior to practically everyone else.
Brazil may be the bookmakers' current favorites to lift the World Cup at 3-1, but the smart money will be on Germany at 13-2.
Who do you think will win the World Cup in 2014?
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Betting odds from Oddschecker.com
Statistics from uefa.com, fifa.com
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