How Difficult Will It Be for Germany to Repeat as World Cup Champions?
Winning the World Cup is really difficult -- only eight countries have done it since the inaugural tournament in 1930. Winning back-to-back World Cups is, understandably, even tougher, and it has only been accomplished by two nations -- Italy (1934 and 1938) and Brazil (1958 and 1962).
In recent history, Italy and Spain both failed spectacularly to defend their World Cup titles, crashing out in the group stage of the following tournament.
But can Germany do it this summer?
The short answer is yes. They are clearly one of the more talented sides, and their 2018 squad includes 6 of the 11 players who started the 2014 World Cup Final in Brazil. However, the five players who are missing include some big names, and their replacements will have to rise to the occasion if Germany are to repeat in Russia.
The five missing players from that final in Brazil are Benedikt Höwedes, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Miroslav Klose, Philipp Lahm, and Christoph Kramer.
Replacing Kramer will be easy, as the young German midfielder started the final only due to an injury to Sami Khedira, who is now healthy and in the 2018 squad.
Replacing Höwedes and Lahm is a tougher task. Höwedes was one of only three German players to be on the field for every minute of the 2014 World Cup, and with star center-back Jerome Boateng fighting to return from injury, Germany may be forced to rely on youth in the middle of defense to start the summer. Thankfully, their youth is more than ready, with the likes of Niklas Sule, Jonathan Tah, and Antonio Rudiger capable of playing alongside veteran Mats Hummels.
Lahm is a legend, with the fifth-most caps in German history, but thankfully an excellent replacement is available in Joshua Kimmich, who has been excelling for both Bayern Munich and the national team.
Replacing Bastian Schweinsteiger would be an almost impossible task for most nations in the world, but for Germany, it's no problem at all. With arguably the best and deepest midfield in the world, Germany have a plethora of options to fill Schweinsteiger's boots in Russia, including Leon Goretzka, Ilkay Gündogan, and a now healthy Sami Khedira.
Replacing Miroslav Klose, the World Cup's all-time leading goal scorer and most capped German striker, will be incredibly difficult. Germany have numerous options available to them, but none have Klose's experience. The most likely replacement will be the young Timo Werner, who is being hailed as the next big thing for Germany following his impressive tally of 34 goals in the Bundesliga over the past two seasons.
With the squad sorted out, let's take a look at Germany's potential path to a repeat World Cup victory through the lens of our analytics.
Group F Opponents: Mexico, Sweden, South Korea
The Germans' group is filled with World Cup experience. With 38 appearances between them, Germany, Mexico, Sweden and South Korea are no strangers to the competition. That said, Germany should have little trouble moving past the group stage. We give them a 90.75% chance of reaching the Round of 16 and a 65.54% chance of winning Group F.
While advancing to the knockout stages shouldn't be an issue for Germany, they will want to be sure to win the group, as a second-place finish could see them face Brazil in the Round of 16.
Round of 16
Most Likely Opponent: Switzerland
Most Difficult Potential Opponent: Brazil
If the Germans do secure a first place finish in Group F, Germany would play the runner up from Group E, which we project to be Switzerland. In that matchup, our numbers heavily favor Germany, giving them a 81.08% chance of advancing.
However, if they do slip up and finish second in Group F, they would likely face Brazil, who should win Group E. In a rematch of the famous 2014 World Cup semifinal, we give Germany just a 24.55% chance of advancing.
Based on their potential Round-of-16 opponents, securing a first-place finish in their group is crucial. All in all, we give Germany a 58.51% chance of advancing past the Round of 16.
Most Likely Opponent: England
Most Difficult Potential Opponent: Belgium
Things rarely go as expected, so as we move deeper into the knockout rounds, it's harder to pinpoint who Germany would face. But going by our numbers, we can identify the teams they're most likely to come up against.
Per our models, England would be the team most likely to waiting for Germany in the quarterfinals. In what would be a rematch of their Round-of-16 clash in the 2010 World Cup, we give Germany a 70.27% chance of defeating England. If England overperform and win their group, Germany could face Belgium in this round. In that match, our metrics give Belgium a slight edge, forecasting the Red Devils with a 52.68% chance of winning.
While the numbers aren't as lopsided as the potential Round-of-16 matches, based on past history, Germany would much prefer to see England in the quarterfinals than Belgium. All said, we give Germany a 38.62% chance of advancing the semifinals, the fourth-best odds of any team in the tournament.
Most Likely Opponent: Spain
Most Difficult Potential Opponent: Spain
Regardless of the path they take to get there, the most likely and most difficult possible opponent for Germany is Spain. At this point in the tourney, there are no easy matches, and if Germany make it this far, they will have secured their fourth straight top-four finish at a World Cup.
In this clash, we favor Spain, giving them a 66.21% chance of defeating Germany. So, in terms of Germany's chances to repeat, baring a potential Round-of-16 matchup with Brazil, this would be the first upset they would have to pull to win the title. All things considered, being favored up to this point bodes well for Germany's chances of a repeat. With all possible outcomes considered, we give Germany a 20.86% chance of reaching the final.
The World Cup Final
Most Likely and Most Difficult Potential Opponent: Brazil
Second-Most Likely Opponent: Belgium
Should Germany make it to the final -- and assuming these two don't meet in the Round of 16 -- we project Brazil to be their opponent. As previously mentioned, our metrics heavily favor Brazil in this clash, giving them a 75.54% chance of advancing. However, taking experience into account, this would be the first World Cup final for every Brazilian player, while Germany would have five players from the 2014 final available to start.
Outside of Brazil, Belgium would be Germany's most likely opponent, according to our metrics. If all goes as planned, Belgium would meet Brazil in the quarterfinals, and if they knocked off the Brazilians, they would be favored to make the finals. Against the Red Devils, Germany would be only slight underdogs, with a 47.32% chance of victory.
All in all, Germany have a pretty good chance to make the semifinals, but they'd need to avoid a potential Round-of-16 matchup with Brazil to have an easier path to the final four. After that, they would face two difficult matches and would most likely need to pull two upsets in a row to repeat as World Cup champs. Overall, our numbers give them an 8.74% chance of winning the title, the fourth-best odds in the tournament.