The Road to the 2018 FIFA World Cup
Germany qualified top of their group by winning all 10 of their matches and were the only team not to drop a point during qualification. In addition, Joachim Loew’s men also jointly set a new scoring record of 43 goals with Belgium for European qualifying. Fifteen of those came in two games against minnows San Marino.
Joachim Loew is perhaps the envy of the world’s coaches with the array of talent at his disposal. Loew didn’t take his main squad to the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia and instead decided give some of his younger squad members the chance to gain experience. Those players went on to win the tournament comfortably, and whittling the stars of ‘Die Mannschaft’ down to the squad for Russia 2018 will be a challenge.
This time, however, Loew will undoubtedly take his big names to Russia – of which he has plenty. Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is one of the best around, and has sterling back-up in Marc-Andre ter Stegen of Barcelona and Kevin Trapp of Paris Saint-Germain.
Neuer’s Bayern teammate, Joshua Kimmich, is an immensely strong right back, having stepped into the boots of former captain and great Philipp Lahm and patrolling the right flank from where he provided a total of nine assists in qualification – more than any other player.
The mercurial Toni Kroos of Real Madrid and Arsenal’s majestic Mesut Ozil provide formidable talent in central midfield.>
Captain Thomas Mueller may try to beat Miroslav Klose’s World Cup finals scoring record of 16 goals. At this point Mueller has 10 goals to his name, but still has time, especially considering he scored five times in both of the last two World Cups.
The vastly experienced Joachim Loew, 58, has been manager of ‘Die Mannschaft’ for 11 years, presiding over generation after generation of successful German teams. His annus mirabilis undoubtedly came in 2014, when he led Germany to their first world title in 24 years in Brazil. Germany are gearing up for the defense of that title in Russia.
Germany have an impressive track record at the World Cup, winning the tournament four times, level with Italy and behind only Brazil. They won their first title in 1954 as West Germany, beating the ‘Mighty Magyars’ of Hungary in the final, who seemed near invincible at the time, in a match now known as the ‘Miracle of Bern’. In that match, Germany found themselves trailing 2-0 eight minutes into the game but were able to equalize quickly, and then Helmut Rahn scored the game-winning goal with six minutes left.
Twenty years later, West Germany hosted the World Cup, winning on home soil. Helmut Schoen’s team suffered only one defeat, curiously in the group stage to East Germany.
Germany made it a hat-trick of World Cup wins thanks to Andreas Brehme, who converted a penalty kick with five minutes left in the final against Argentina at Italia ’90, and their fourth trophy featured a replica of that final, this time with Mario Goetze sealing the victory in extra time in Brazil in 2014.