When the Germans take on Australia June 13, they will begin the journey that they hope ends with their fourth World Cup victory. One of the most successful and storied teams in the history of the World Cup, Germany has its work cut out for themselves this year, but adversity has never stopped them before.
Here is a look at some strengths, and weaknesses of Germany squad heading into the World Cup.
Three World Cup victories. The most top three finishes of any nation. Countless legendary players with numerous awards, and accolades. The Germans are a mainstay in the late stages of the World Cup, and that fact alone makes it hard to bet against them.
Many say that this German team isn’t the best collection of talent they’ve ever had, but they were supposed to have down years in 2002 and 2006, yet they managed to finish second and third respectively.
History has a way of repeating itself. So while 2006, 2002, and even 1990 has little to do with the 2010 version of team Germany, there is a strong precedent of success for the nation.
In the past two World Cups the German team has been aggressive in the attack. In 2002, they tied Brazil for most goals scored in the group stage (11), and in 2006 they led all nations in goals scored with 14.
Forward Miroslav Klose has been the main man for Germany the past two World Cups, scoring five times in both tournaments en route to winning the Silver Boot in 2002, and the Gold Boot in 2006. He is the only player to score five or more goals in consecutive World Cups, and is six goals away from passing Ronaldo as the World Cup’s all-time leading scorer.
He is joined by the 2006 World Cup’s Best Young Player and Silver Boot winner Lukas Podolski, midfielder Bastain Schweinsteiger, who tied for third in goals in the 2006 tournament, and newcomer but fastly rising midfielder Mesut Ozil.
The Germans will be aggressive, and the goals will come.
The three will go hand in hand for Die Mannschaft in South Africa. Former captain Michael Ballack had already stated that the Germans “do not have the consistency or strength in depth” to be serious title contenders, and many pundits agreed.
This was before the team lost five potential starters due to injury: goalkeeper Rene Adler, defenders Heiko Westermann and Christian Träsch, midfielder Simon Rolfes, and Ballack. There were so many injuries to an already small pool of players that head coach Joachim Low only had to make one cut to get down to the final 23.
This year, 15 Germans will be making their World Cup debut. Not only do they have little World Cup experience, but many also have little national team or even life experience. Six players are 21-years-old or younger, nine players have fewer than five caps, and three have only appeared for the German National Team once.
Some very young kids have some very large shoes to fill, both in replacing players this World Cup, and just the general history of great German players.
That’s a lot to leave on the shoulders of a very inexperienced group.
With such a young roster, veteran leadership is extremely important in getting everyone on the same page, and properly prepared for the spectacle that they are about to be thrown into.
However, Ballack’s injury, as well as those to the other veteran players, leaves the team without that invaluable leadership.
Defender Philipp Lahm, a very talented player, will take over as captain, but his soccer experience cannot match that of Ballack’s. Not only will the team have to rely on young players in the lineup, but they will also have to rely on a relatively young captain. It can’t help that Lahm was given the duty on such short notice heading into the tournament.
Although they aren’t thought to be as talented as in years past, Germany is still favored to win a rather difficult Group D which includes Serbia, Australia, and Ghana. They have an impressive track record in the World Cup, and the fan base is excited over a strong youth movement.
However, with so many injuries the pressures put on the younger players now intensifies. Will they be able to meet expectations, or will the increased burden cause them to yield, and pave the way for the German team to have an early exit?