Germany have been the picture of consistency over the past decade, but unfortunately, part of that consistency has been a failure to bring home a trophy.
In the last four major international tournaments (two World Cups, two European Championships), Die Mannschaft have advanced to the semifinals a perfect four times. Three of those (2006 and 2010 World Cups and Euro 2012) have resulted in third-place finishes, however, while the fourth (Euro 2008) yielded a defeat to Spain in the final.
Still, Germany remain as one of the most successful international sides in history. Their three World Cup titles are behind only Brazil and Italy, while no nation has more semifinal appearances. And with an abundance of talent—it would be difficult to find a deeper roster across the world—Joachim Low's side is a strong favorite to at least add to that latter tally, even coming out of what is arguably the most difficult group.
Let's take a closer at Germany as they head to Brazil looking to break their consistency for the better.
|GK||Manuel Neuer||Bayern Munich|
|DEF||Jerome Boateng||Bayern Munich|
|DEF||Philipp Lahm||Bayern Munich|
|MID||Mario Goetze||Bayern Munich|
|MID||Christoph Kramer||Borussia Monchengladbach|
|MID||Sami Khedira||Real Madrid|
|MID||Toni Kroos||Bayern Munich|
|MID||Bastian Schweinsteiger||Bayern Munich|
|ATT||Thomas Mueller||Bayern Munich|
No team—not even Germany—is without its weaknesses. That said, Germany's weaknesses have a multitude of potential answers that most teams envy.
Perhaps the biggest storyline is up front, where Low brings just one out-and-out striker to South America. Of course, that one striker is historically prolific on the international scale, as Squawka Football noted:
Miroslav Klose is currently on 14 World Cup goals, just one behind the all-time leading scorer Ronaldo (15). pic.twitter.com/hERk9rz7sR— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 8, 2014
Who should start up front for Germany against Portugal?
Still, Miroslav Klose just turned 36 years old and scored only seven goals in 25 Serie A appearances with Lazio this season. Even if he starts against Portugal, he isn't likely to start every match or always go the full 90.
There are a slew of candidates to take his spot in Germany's false nine, but the two we've seen most recently are Mario Goetze and Thomas Mueller.
Goetze, Bayern Munich's 21-year-old burgeoning star, has been the more common choice with Mueller staying on the outside. However, during the June 1 friendly against Cameroon, Mueller—the 2010 Golden Boot winner—was far more efficient in the striker role after Goetze's departure.
Low, via DW Sports, praised the 24-year-old:
Löw: "Thomas Müller is always good for a goal. He goes into the gaps, makes the runs....." Then comes the word "instinct" from coach's mouth— DW - Sports (@dw_sports) June 1, 2014
Really, it's not.
Another potential problem resides at right back—at least if Philipp Lahm ends up playing a central midfield role, as he often did for Bayern this season.
Jerome Boateng struggled to reel in Eric Choupo-Moting's speed against Cameroon, so it's a bit frightening to think of what the electrifying Cristiano Ronaldo (if healthy) could do if given some space one-on-one against the central defender.
DW Sports put it simply:
As long as two of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Sami Khedira and Toni Kroos are fit, though, Low should feel safe in moving Lahm to right back, where he is world-class and would immediately move Germany's defense from good to brick wall.
When it comes down to it, you have to dig to find the flaws in Germany's armor, and even if you do find a weakness, they have the depth and versatility to solve it quickly. Then you throw in guys like Mueller and Marco Reus, who can be transcendent and erase a poor team performance by themselves, and it's not difficult to see why the Germans are on the shortlist of favorites in Brazil.
|Mon, June 16||Portugal||W, 3-2|
|Sat, June 21||Ghana||W, 2-0|
|Thur, June 26||United States||W, 2-1|
|9 Points, First in Group|
Germany wasn't dealt many favors. Portugal, ranked No. 3 in the world by FIFA, have the ever-dangerous Ronaldo. Ghana have advanced out of the group stage two World Cups in a row and have a strong, physical team. The United States, led by German Jurgen Klinsmann, beat Germany a year ago (although it was far from the Germans' full first squad) and feature a lot of attacking talent, especially in the midfield.
It won't be easy, but Germany are still far and away the most complete team of this quartet. As long as everyone is healthy—which does remain a significant concern—they will win the group.
From there, there's reprieve, as the second-place finisher from Group H (Belgium, Russia, Algeria, South Korea) should prove easier than any of Germany's group stage fixtures—as long as it isn't the Belgians.