Your Guide to SA 2010 : Germany

FIFA Ranking: 6th

Talk about perennial champions in world football and you are talking about teams like Italy, Brazil and Germany. These countries have carved a niche for themselves on the international stage and have eventually ended up with sparkling World Cup histories. Talking about the Germans, they boast three World Cup titles to their name (1954, 1974, 1990), a feat surpassed by only two other nations. A feat achieved solely because of their endless supply of gifted footballers over generations. Maybe it be the timeless ingenuity of Franz Beckenbauer and Lothar Matthaus or recent wonders like Michael Ballack and Lukas Podolski, Germany's footballing resource has always been unparalleled and incomparable. No doubt this sparkling history can act as a dose of motivation for the German lads in South Africa, but it can also leave them psyched. For a country who's real tournament only begins after semifinals, anything less than that in South Africa would mean failure for them. Thus by all means Germany are one of the firm contenders for 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Last World Cup Journey

Germany hosted the 2006 World Cup edition. Backed by a tremendous home support Germany oversaw a splendid WC campaign under the stewardship of Jurgen Klinsmann. They stormed through their group stages scoring 8 times and conceding only twice. Needless to say they finished as the group toppers. In the knock-outs, they bagged a convincing victory over Sweden (2-0) in the pre-quaters and won 4-2 on penalties against Argentina in quaterfinals after playing out a 1-1 humdinger. Their high-flying campaign came crashing down in the semis, when they played against Italy. Two goals at the death from Fabio Grosso (119th minute) and Del Piero (121st minute) handed Germany a brutal defeat and Italy went on to win the World Cup against France. Even so they managed to claim the 3rd place by defeating Portugal in the playoffs. Miroslav Klose was awarded the Golden Boot for his 5 goals in the tourney and Lukas Podolski was adjudged the Best Young Player. Not only this, but four German players ( Jens Lehmann, Philipp Lahm, Michael Ballack and Miroslav Klose) featured in the all-star team which was selected the FIFA.

The Manager

Joachim Low, the current manager of Germany has carried on from where Jurgen Klinsmann left of. He and the then coach Klinsmann had deviced a new attacking philosophy for the Germany which resulted in successful outings in 2006 World Cup and 2008 Euro Championships where Germany finished as the runners up. Low is a no-nonsense man and a disciplinarian. His decision to omit Schalke striker Kevin Kuranyi from the WC squad for storming away before the final whistle in a qualifier against Russia depicts the same. In South Africa, Low will have to be at his tactical best since important players like Michael Ballack, Rene Adler, Christian Traesch and Simon Rolfes are out of the World Cup due to injuries.

The Squad

Manuel Neuer, Tim Wiese, Hans-Jorg Butt

Holger Badstuber, Jerome Boateng, Serdar Tasci, Marcell Jansen, Per Mertesacker, Aene Friedrich, Philipp Lahm

Marko Marin, Toni Kroos, Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil, Dennis Aogo, Piotr Trochowski, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Muller

Stefan Kiessling, Mario Gomez, Lukas Podolski, Cacau, Miroslav Klose

Squad Strengths

Germany has got abundance of striking options as they have a number of goal scorers in their squad. Goal machine Miroslav Klose and Podolski both are proven performers for their country. They will be looking to repeat the feat they achieved in 2006 World Cup. Midfield too looks threatening. In absence of Ballack, it is expected that Schweinsteiger will be handed a more advanced role in midfield. Add to this the Bremen playmaker Mesut Ozil, who has earned special priases from Beckenbauer is being touted as the next best thing in the German midfield. All in all a very attacking side.

Squad Weakness

Germany's shortcoming is in defence, especially in the goalkeeping position following the tragic suicide last year of their first choice goalkeeper Robert Enke. Bayer Leverkusen's Rene Adler was Germany's no.1 until he was ruled out of World Cup due to rib injury. It is now expected that the less experienced Manuel Neuer will guard the post. But given that Germany are placed in a competitive group, this relative weakness in goal will give Ghana, Australia and Serbia hope of pulling off a major upset. Ironically Germany boasted of one the best goalkeepers of all times Oliver Kahn. Add to this the absence of their inspirational skipper Michael Ballack. Joachim Low clearly has some important decisions to make.

Men To Watch

Miroslav Klose

The veteran striker Miroslav Klose has consistently delivered for Germany on international stage. He has scored 5 goals in each of the previous two World Cups. His 48 goals in 98 matches has put him in the 2nd in German all-time scoring charts. His eye for goals and clinical finishing has surely made him one of the most fearsome strikers in the world.

Bastian Schweinsteiger

Bastian Schweinsteiger came under the limelight for his spirited performance in 2006 World Cup. The 25-year-old midfielder offers immense experience having already crossed 75 caps for Germany. He can operate in central midfield or on both flanks thus providing his manager plenty of options. His long-range shooting skill and wicked vision has made him an important weapon in the German armoury. 

Philipp Lahm

The 26-year-old Bayern Munich defender has been assigned the role of captaincy in absence of Michael Ballack. Lahm has enjoyed an incredible season with Bayern and has attracted interests from many European giants like Manchester United. He has been a revolution in defence who also loves to make frequent forward surges. Lahm along with Mertesacker will play vital roles in Germany's defence.

FP Verdict

Despite many persisting woes one can never write off Germany. Out of 16 times that Germany has appeared in World Cups, they have managed to reach semifinals an astounding 11 times and finals 7 times. Placed in group D along with Australia, Ghana and Serbia, Germany have enough quality and depth to surpass the group stages. Although, as of now, reaching the finals is looking highly unlikely, but history has shown time and again that Germany is capable of producing wonderful footballing spectacles which might just give them an outside chance of clinching their fourth World Cup. So let the game begin! 

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