Predicting a Route to World Cup Glory for Germany
Germany kick off their 2014 World Cup campaign in just seven days, with their first fixture a tough test against Portugal in their Group G opener. The Mannschaft face a challenge to win Group G and can expect serious challenges in every knockout round regardless of whether they win their group or finish runners-up.
Joachim Low has brought a combination of experience and youth to Brazil as the Germans aim to win their fourth World Cup, but harsh anticipated kickoff conditions and a blight of injuries, combined with some elite competition they could face, will make their route to glory a very difficult one.
Click "Begin Slideshow" for a match-by-match look at the tests Low and his Germany side can expect en route to the title, should they progress.
Group Stage: Germany vs. Portugal
Germany begin their World Cup campaign on June 16 as they take on Portugal in the most anticipated match of Group G. The two European sides will later face Ghana and the United States, both sides that are beatable and considered outside contenders to progress.
The Mannschaft have a strong record against Portugal in recent years, having beaten the Seleccao in the 2006 World Cup and at Euro 2008 and Euro 2012.
Although Portugal have some strong players, namely Cristiano Ronaldo, Germany are a more well-rounded team with decisively better options in goal and the center of midfield. If they are to lift the World Cup, Joachim Low's men will have to overcome a strong but beatable Portugal side.
Group Stage: Germany vs. Ghana
In their second group stage game, Germany face a stern test in Ghana. The Black Stars are familiar opponents for Joachim Low's side, with the two having met in the 2010 World Cup group stage.
Ghana's physical style of play frustrated the Mannschaft in South Africa, and only a beauty of a shot from distance by Mesut Ozil made the difference on the day. Anticipating a repeat in 2014, the DFB scheduled a pre-tournament friendly with a similarly robust Cameroon to prepare Germany for their future test.
Even with their many injuries, Germany should be able to overcome a Ghana side that lost and failed to score in recent friendlies with the Netherlands and Montenegro. Three points could put Low's side in pole position to win the group.
Group Stage: United States vs. Germany
Germany's final test of the group stage may be against their most manageable opponents, the United States. It's a special match between Jurgen Klinsmann's USA and the first national team he coached, managed by his former assistant.
The Mannschaft may only need a draw to secure first place in their group by the time they face the United States, but whether aiming for three points or one, they ought to get the result they need.
Klinsmann may be a great motivator and indeed has some strong players in his squad, but inexperience at a high level has traditionally been a problem for the United States at the World Cup. As it stands, the Stars and Stripes have little collective experience in major international tournaments.
Still, Germany will need to be wary of the threat the United States pose. Last June, the Stars and Stripes beat the Mannschaft 4-2 in a friendly.
Round of 16: Germany vs. Russia
Anything is possible, but if Germany win Group G and Belgium win Group H, it's most likely that the Mannschaft will take on Russia in the Round of 16.
The Russians should be able to finish runners-up in their group but will be at a big disadvantage following an injury to captain Roman Shirokov, who was ruled out of the World Cup on Friday due to a back injury. Fabio Capello is a supremely qualified coach, though, and will bring a strong team to the World Cup.
Alexander Dzagoev is already an internationally recognized star, while Aleksandr Kokorin could have a real breakthrough in Brazil.
One glaring difference between Germany and Russia is that Capello's squad is comprised solely of Russian Premier League players, and they will have to play at a significantly higher level at the World Cup. Should the two sides meet, Germany will be the first traditional World Cup power that Russia will face.
That could make all the difference.
Quarter-Final: France vs. Germany
Should Germany win their group and advance past the Round of 16, they will face the winner of Group E or runner-up of Group F. Among Switzerland, Ecuador, France and Honduras, there could well be an upset, but les Bleus are favorites to advance as group winners even without the injured Franck Ribery.
Argentina are runaway favorites to win Group F, meanwhile, with Bosnia, Iran and Nigeria most likely to compete for second place. Nigeria and Bosnia are the most likely candidates, the Balkan side perhaps having an edge due to their superior midfield and striker options. However, Bosnia's inexperience (this is the country's first World Cup since Yugoslavia collapsed) could prove costly.
Out of France and Bosnia, Didier Deschamps' men should be favorites. They could face familiar opposition in the form of a Germany side they met in February of 2012 and again in February of 2013. Both matches ended 2-1, with France taking the spoils against Laurent Blanc's side in the first encounter and Germany in the most recent fixture.
France may have famously imploded at the 2010 World Cup, but they have turned over a new leaf in recent years. They have a Champions League-winning striker in Karim Benzema and class in attacking midfield in the form of Loic Remy, Mathieu Valbuena and the rising talent Antoine Griezmann. Patrice Evra and Bacary Sagna are two solid choices at full-back, while Paul Pogba is a world-class midfielder in the making.
The absence of Ribery could prove costly for France, however, and Deschamps' men may find it hard to score even against a notoriously leaky German defense.
The Germans lack a presence in the box, of course, but they do have diverse options in attacking midfield. Scorers like Thomas Muller, Lukas Podolski and Andre Schurrle, should create opportunities especially when backed by Toni Kroos and either Philipp Lahm or Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Semi-Final: Brazil vs. Germany
It's a tough call to pick the semi-finalists Germany would face, with Brazil, Spain, the Netherlands, Uruguay, England and Italy among the possibilities. But tournament favorites Brazil are the most likely of the bunch.
The Selecao deserve their rating, given their home-field advantage and fine form. It's been nearly a year since Brazil entered a match and failed to win.
Brazil have their weaknesses, though, and it's entirely possible that these will affect their performance at the World Cup—especially as they face the best and most in-form teams in the latter stages.
Central midfield is an area where Brazil are rather ordinary, with Fernandinho, Paulinho, Ramires and Luiz Gustavo all very useful players but but not on a world-class level.
At center forward, Fred is 30 years of age and never really made his mark in Europe. He experienced a renaissance of form after returning to his native Brazil, but a haul of eight goals in 25 appearances in 2013 is underwhelming.
Brazil will deserve it if they qualify for the semi-finals, but there may still be some questions to ask.
Germany's quality through the center will have to show if they are to overcome Brazil; of particular importance will be the role of the No. 10, be he Mario Gotze, Mesut Ozil or Toni Kroos. And the full-backs will need to step up their game against Neymar especially.
But Brazil, who were defeated 3-2 by Germany in 2011 in the two teams' last encounter, are a beatable side if the Mannschaft can take their chances.
Final: Germany vs. Spain
Should Germany beat Brazil, they should be able to beat any team in the final. However, fatigue could be a severe problem for the Mannschaft especially if they go to extra time in the semi-final.
Among a list of possible final opponents are Argentina, the Netherlands and dark horses Belgium, but reigning world champions Spain are probably the best bet. La Furia Roja are not as strong as they were two years ago, but the same was said in 2012 and they still managed to win the European Championship.
There is something to be said for experience. And Spain are masters of a slow-paced game that will be suitable in the stiflingly hot temperatures in Brazil, especially toward the end of a long tournament.
With Diego Costa injured and David Villa no longer the player he once was, Spain have some real question marks in the striker position. Their back line is somewhat questionable, while an aging central midfield could also be overrun.
Germany would enter a head-to-head as clear underdogs, though, as Spain have dominated international football for eight years, ending German hopes at Euro 2008 and in the 2010 World Cup.
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