On Monday 16th June, Germany kick-off their World Cup campaign against Portugal in the Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador, with huge expectations in the air.
Upon hearing the news that Die Mannschaft are another man down, with Marco Reus being the latest player to be ruled out of the tournament, coach Joachim Low must wonder why the gods are conspiring against him.
Before a ball has even been kicked at the 2014 Finals, Low is under considerable pressure to deliver the bacon. The first man to captain and coach a World Cup winning team, German legend Franz Beckenbauer, recently told the Daily Telegraph's Jeremy Wilson:
Two years ago in the European Championship the team was very very good but not experienced enough. Now. It's two years later, so also they have a lot of experience. I think it's time for Germany to win the World Cup again.
Under Low's watch, the national team have delivered two semi-finals and a final (Euro 2008) in major tournaments—an enviable record for others.
However, for a country with the prestige of Germany, and as per the words of legendary Vince Lombardi, 'there is no second place'.
The Germans' expectations reflect the transition of Die Mannschaft compared with almost 15 years ago. Back then the entire setup was in a precarious state of disarray. At the European Championships of 2000, they finished bottom of their group, compounded by a defeat to a poor England side.
Back then the Three Lions had the likes of Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Gary Neville, Michael Owen and Steven Gerrard establishing themselves for their respective club sides and they became the focal point of England's Golden Generation who ultimately flattered to deceive.
Back to 2000 and German football required widespread reform. The wheels were in motion but Germany's World Cup Final appearance in 2002 was considered an anomaly for two reasons. Firstly, they did not actually play particularly well and secondly, it was a tournament littered with upsets.
Despite positives being taken, Germany's progression regressed at the 2004 European Championships, which resulted in Rudi Voller ending his brief tenure as national team boss.
The instability at the head of the ship was clearly evident as Die Mannschaft searched for its third manager in six years—hardly believable given that Germany had six head coaches spanning the preceding 75 years.
At that point Low entered the fray, albeit as Jurgen Klinsmann's assistant, for the German-hosted 2006 World Cup Finals. They gave an excellent account of themselves by reaching the semi-final where they were knocked out by their nemesis Italy in the last few minutes of extra-time.
Two years on, Germany still have a relatively young side (average age 27) with an outstanding nucleus forged from Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. Manuel Neuer, Per Mertesacker, Mats Hummels, Philipp Lahm form an all-star defence. While Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira perform the hard yards so that Mesut Ozil, Mario Gotze and Toni Kroos can excel.
Of course, the injuries to Lars Bender and Reus are a blow, but considering the last World Cup's joint top-scorer Thomas Muller, along with Julian Draxler and Andre Schurrle are also in the mix, the German squad boasts irrepressible strength and depth.
Given the pressure and the injuries, the Germans know that a positive start against Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal on Monday will go a long way towards steadying their nerves.
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