Germany's World Cup ambitions now only have three months to wait until they can either fulfil their greatest desires or once again stumble and falter at the final hurdle. Yet if this race is just about to start, should we be worried that Joachim Loew's side simply haven't stretched out and dealt with all the niggling injuries that could see them fall?
Plug the hole in defence
The main worry for any German fan this summer isn't going to be the team chemistry between the Bayern and Dortmund players, the form of Mesut Ozil or even the age old question of whether Mario Gomez is good enough—it will be the ever-concerning state of the defence.
On the face of such a topic, one could be forgiven for assuming that such trepidation is all overblown when we consider that Germany walked to the top of their last qualifying group with eight points to spare and a goal difference of plus 28.
Yet when we take a closer look at Loew's side in the tougher games throughout the past few years they do tend to concede a worrying amount of goals.
The most worrying example of this is, of course, the two showdowns with Sweden within the aforementioned group that saw Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Co. put seven goals past the Germans despite failing to win either game.
Then let us consider the recent friendlies against England, Italy and Paraguay in which the side again let in four goals over the course of the three games. Add to that the seven goals they conceded in the three friendlies against the USA, France and Ecuador at the start of 2013 and you have a worrying scenario arising.
Germany simply cannot keep a clean sheet against decent opposition and that could be their downfall against the very best this summer.
A confirmed starting XI
Following on from the troubling nature of the ever-evolving defence, Loew also has to set about finding his best starting team and essentially sticking to it and giving the squad enough time to adapt before the big day in three months' time.
As ever, the German national team is largely dominated by Bayern and Dortmund players and given the movement between both squads over the past season it would be fair to suggest that the Bundestrainer has got to really pull in the reins and pick his best side.
Add to that the lingering form of Mesut Ozil, as he continues to adapt to life in English football, and we have an entire midfield and forward line that is essentially up for grabs to a number of regular members of the squad.
Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Mueller, Lars Bender, Mario Goetze, Toni Kroos, Ilkay Gundogan, Marco Reus and Sami Khedira will all be fighting for five spots in midfield before the likes of Julian Draxler, Sven Bender and Kevin Grosskreutz offer their services too. Yet at this point your guess is as good as ours with regard to who will start in the opening tie against Portugal in July.
Going in to the friendly against Chile this week we can expect to see even more new faces such as Andre Hahn, Matthias Ginter and Pierre-Michel Lasogga, which in itself is always a good sign when we consider the importance of blooding young talent into the first team. However, with so little time before this summer's World Cup, when will we actually see Loew sit down and point to the players who Germany can rely on this summer?
A winning mentality
This final aspect of Loew's side is undoubtedly the most important of the lot when we consider what any side needs to win a competition like the World Cup, yet optimists around the German camp would suggest that it's something that the nation have finally grasped.
For the first time in this generation of players, Loew's side is peppered with stars that have been to the European battle ground that is the Champions League and came back to tell the tale.
Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm and Kroos—the Bayern spine of this side—now know what it takes to overcome the best in this sport and win the big competitions. It may not be Loew or his own squad's triumph to boast about, but Germany have become winners overnight and that changes everything.
Add to that the nearly-men of Dortmund's own branch of stars in Marco Reus, Ilkay Gundogan and others with just as much talent as their Bayern compatriots, and you have a first team that is already primarily made up of European calibre players who were challenging for continental competitions not 18-months ago.
Whether Bayern or Dortmund go on to win the Champions League and reclaim it for the Bundesliga for a successive year is something we can only speculate on at the moment but when it comes to instilling that winning mentality the die has already been cast. Germany's best players have begun their hunt for football's top prizes and the World Cup is clearly in their sights.
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