Germany's World Cup: If You're Not First, Your'e Last
Are you sitting down?
If not, you might want to because I’m about to briefly run down Germany’s international exploits and it could very well leave you a tad light headed.
- Three-time World Cup Winners (1954, 1974, 1990)
- Four-time World Cup runners-up
- Four third-place World Cup finishes
- Three European Championships (1972, 1980, 1996)
- Three-time European Championship runner-ups
- They’re the only country to win both the men’s and woman’s World Cup
Still with me?
Need a cigarette?
I know what you’re thinking: “Sweet, swirling onion rings, Batman!” Yes, it's quite the list of accomplishments, and actually, in terms of just World Cup titles, they stand behind only Brazil (5) and Italy (4).
But unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it), those impressive football feats also mean that much is expected of them each and every time they set foot on the international stage.
How’s that line in Spider Man go? Oh yeah, “With great power comes great responsibility”.
Yes, along with Argentina, the aforementioned Brazil and Italy, and probably Spain considering they’re defending champs and boast one of the most talented rosters in the world, for “Die Mannschaft” (The Team), the mission is simple: win, or else.
Okay, maybe the “or else” is a little dramatic, but the fact remains that Germany’s storied past combined with their seemingly endless supply of homegrown super stars means that if they don’t return home with a World Cup trophy it’s seen as a failure.
2014 is obviously no different, and, as usual, their team will be a variable “who’s who” of world football. From back to front, the roster exudes world class talent, so, before we explore what nERD has to say about “Die Adler’s” (The Eagles) chances, let’s go over some of the highlights of this otherworldly roster.
The team will carry three keepers that most clubs or countries would be thrilled to have, but Manuel Neuer will be the one to feature between the posts unless there’s an injury. The phrase “Best Keeper in the world” often gets associated with Neuer, and in the 2013 he received the hardware to prove it as he was named World Goalkeeper of the Year.
Known for his quick reflexes and shot-blocking ability, Neuer is also a very good distributor from the back and has become well known for his ability to effortlessly pick out a pass from long distances and place the ball directly into the path of his teammate. He gives the Germans a great advantage, especially in the later stages where the level of competition increases as does the chance for penalty shootouts.
When you talk about the German defense, you have to begin with their captain, Philipp Lahm. As one of - if not the - best right backs in the world for the last decade, Lahm has earned this reputation by excelling at what modern fullbacks are required to do, and that’s fly up and down the wing, win tackles, and also be able to help ignite an attack by flanking out wide, getting past his markers, and playing balls into the box.
A true student of the game, Lahm is nothing short of a tactician in his craft. In fact, his current Bayern Munich coach, Pep Guardiola, said of his prized defender shorty after taking over at the club for the ’13-’14 season: “[He] is perhaps the most intelligent player I have trained in my career.” So intelligent in fact, that Guardiola has begun to deploy Lahm in a more reserved midfield role as apposed to his normal one at right back, so as to take advantage of his football smarts and ability to dictate the flow of a game. A role he’s expected to occupy for his country as well.
While there’s talent up and down this roster at every single position, midfield is where Germany draws most of it’s strength. Not only are their starters among the best in the world, the mids they can roll off the bench could feature in most countries staring XI as well. Something that perhaps only Spain could match.
Co-captain Bastian Schweinsteiger, a Bayern Munich man as well (they account for 7 of the final 23 man World Cup roster), is truly an intimidating presence in the middle of the park. Voted as the best German player for 2013, Schweinsteiger combines excellent passing, superb dribbling, and the ability and a willingness to make tackles with a seemingly endless motor that allows him to dominate central midfield.
Mesut Özil is another name that, despite an up and down ’13/’14 season for club country, must be mentioned when speaking of this magnificent midfield. After bursting on to the scene after a stellar 2010 World Cup, Özil signed with Spanish giants Real Madrid where he spent three seasons before transferring to Arsenal shortly after the start of this most recent season. Compared to the legendary Zinedine Zidane by former manager Jose Mourinho, Özil is one of the finest attacking midfielders in the world. Despite suffering a few nagging injures and an occasional run of bad form, he still managed 7 goals and 11 assists in all competitions for the north London side this year.
The team may only carry one true out-and-out striker in Miroslav Klose (Germany’s all-time leading scorer with 69 goals), but at age 36, he’s unlikely to feature too much into the team’s attack. Instead, they’ll be counting on a more youthful, dynamic presence.
Enter: Thomas Müller.
A midfielder by trade, Müller has become world renowned for his ability to be flexible in whatever role his club or country need him to play. And this summer for Germany, they very well could play him as the lone striker in a 4-3-3-1 formation.
He excels at reading the game and has an uncanny ability to find pockets of open space where he either positions himself for a goal, or creates an opportunity for a teammate. Bursting onto the scene in the 2010 World Cup, Müller, with 5 goals and 3 assists, not only took home the award for Best Young Player, but also won the coveted Golden Boot (top goal scorer) as well.
That is but a mere taste of the talented German roster headed to Brazil. Seriously, they just don’t stop coming. Even with the loss of Marco Reus, whom many consider to be one the finest attacking midfielders in the world, the team doesn’t even bat an eye.
So, should we just hand them the trophy now and be done with it? Surely all that talent and pedigree must mean they’re a lock, right? Not so fast. On paper that might work as the Spaniards appear to be the only one’s who can match them, but football’s not played on paper (shocking, I know).
With a nERD score of 3.05, Germany comes in at number four in our handy dandy rankings. Pretty good. No, pretty awesome. With the usual suspects Brazil, Argentina, and Spain the only one’s looking down on them, a deep run appears to be in the cards. But, will it be deep enough?
The group stages should be no problem. Group G has been famously been labeled the “Group of Death”, but the phrase doesn’t apply to Germany. In fact, with a 65.73% chance of finishing first in the group and a 88.13% chance of reaching the knockout stages, they really should have no trouble in dispensing of Portugal, USA, and Ghana.
Moving on to the Round of 16, the odds remain in their favor with a 69.97% chance of advancing to the quarterfinals. The second highest rate out of all the remaining teams. Right on schedule.
Now in the quarterfinal’s, things start to get a little hairy. However, the German’s came well equipped with razors, trimmers, and maybe even machete’s and should be able to, with a 42.28% chance of making the next round (third-highest rate amongst remaining teams), cut down the competition and secure a semifinal berth. All is going according to plan.
But the semifinals is where the plan begins to unravel. An 18.05% chance of making the final likely leaves the German’s on the outside looking in…again. A Total score 2.56 could point to the team’s expected demise, albeit a late one. The score measures a team’s contribution to the total number of goals scored in a match, and is a combination of expected goals scored and expected goals conceded. Germany’s score is the highest by far out of all 32 teams in the tournament. So, while they may put plenty of balls in the back of the net (which they have the talent to do so), they also project to surrender their fair share of goals as well.
But take heart, fans of “Nationalmannschaft” (national team), with a 10.90%, they hold the third-highest odds of winning the whole shebang.
The numbers may not exactly support Germany winning the Cup, but one’s thing for sure - they’ll at least be in the conversation when it’s all said and done. That may not be enough for the nation itself, but it sure is impressive to the rest of the world.