Why Germany Are Under More Pressure Than Ever to Win the World Cup

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Why Germany Are Under More Pressure Than Ever to Win the World Cup
Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

Germany left for Recife this week where on Thursday they take on Jurgen Klinsmann and the United States in their final group-stage match to decide who goes through to the knockout stage.

Although Germany are in a good position to advance (a draw would suffice), the real challenge begins now. Every match from here on will be a final, as team general manager Oliver Bierhoff said in Tuesday's press conference.

And for Germany, the pressure to bring home silverware has never been bigger. Germany are now 18 years without an international trophy and 24 without a World Cup. For a nation that has participated in more World Cup matches than any other country, the patience has run out.

After disappointing performances in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the DFB (German Football Association), along with all clubs, have worked hard to restructure its academies and institutions to produce a new generation of talent that can replicate the success of the past.

Many feel that the product of all that work, the current generation, is perhaps the most talented in German football history. With such praise comes heavy expectations, and after several years together, this group of players is expected to finally deliver a trophy.

The transition started in 2004 under current U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann and was continued by Joachim Low after the 2006 World Cup. Both began integrating and using many of the younger players produced by the German academy systems.

DIETHER ENDLICHER/Associated Press
Germany's 1996 EURO win remains their last international trophy.

The 2008 EUROs and the World Cup in South Africa two years later were a platform for a lot of those young players to be integrated into the program and grow.

With players such as Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger at their peak and players such as Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil firmly established, the team is ripe to succeed in Brazil.

Those expectations were escalated by the disappointing campaign at the EUROs two years ago. Germany went into the tournament as the big favorites alongside Spain but exited in unimpressive fashion against Italy in the semifinals.

The fact that Germany have come so close in recent tournaments only to stumble has only increased frustrations. Another disappointing campaign may redefine a "golden generation" as one unable to ever fulfill its potential.

Germany have a long history of overcoming the odds and succeeding against expectations at international tournaments. They managed improbable comebacks, won games many expected them not to and, most importantly, ended with winners medals around their necks.

Low's team is fighting the growing perception that old Germany is long gone and that this generation of players lacks the same willpower and mentality to succeed.  

In a way, Germany is battling its own high standards and history. European sides have never won the World Cup in South America, but Germany haven't had to wait this long for a trophy in over 40 years.

Also looming over Germany going into the U.S. match is the ghost of Gijon in 1982, the so-called "non-aggression" pact between West Germany and Austria, a stalemate of a result that favored both sides at the expense of Algeria.

Associated Press
West Germany's 'orchestrated' 1-0 win in 1982 against Austria remains one of the dark points in German football history.

With a draw being enough to see both Germany and the U.S. through, a possible repeat has been suggested. Bierhoff has been quick to dismiss any such notion, saying that nothing but a win will do for them, per AFP.com. 

In spite of their best efforts, when the scoreline reflects a favorable result, inevitable questions will be raised, and that only increases the pressure on the players and the team. 

Furthermore, the success of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund at club level has also intensified the pressure on Low. A lot of international teams' success is founded on or coupled with the success of their clubs' teams. 

German club football is in a real period of prosperity and success at the moment, and the inability to translate that to the national team has only widened criticism. 

How can Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund be so successful, but the national team, normally made up almost entirely of players from those clubs, just can't seem to find the missing link?

Over the years Low has tinkered with the team's tactics and formations, given over 80 players their debuts and never seemed to have found the right formula. 

Although the DFB has extended his contract until the 2016 EUROs, a failure in Brazil could spell the end for Low, as a nation collectively seeks to end what seems to be a never-ending trophy drought.

 

Follow Cristian on twitter @cnyari

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