World Cup 2018

The lean, mean, German machine (no not the latest Mercedes) are the holders of the World Cup and come into the 2018 Finals in Russia as one of the favourites. Their victorious team of 2014 has changed quite a bit since their triumph in the Maracana but they’ve had a choice of young prospects that have come along that successful German production line.

How did they qualify?

They topped their group, of course, fending off the mighty Northern Ireland, the Imperious Norway and the ever-entertaining San Marino. They swept every team aside and finished qualifying with a maximum total of 30 points from 10 games.

Who will I recognise?

If you’re a fan of the Premier League, expect to see a few familiar faces in the German ranks. They possess the pace of Leroy Sane, the guile of Mesut Ozil and the brute force of Antonio Rudiger. Ozil is the talisman of the German team and provides most of their attacking creativity along with Toni Kroos of Real Madrid. The world’s best goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer (ignore the Man Utd fans), may miss out on the World Cup having been out with a foot injury all season but they’ve got Barcelona’s first-choice keeper, Marc Andre Ter-Stegan, as back-up so, no biggie. The likes of Phillip Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Lukas Podolski have made way for a younger squad but the Germans will hope the new players can emulate the old guard.

Who should I look out for?

It seems like the striker spot is always up for grabs in the German national team and this year it’s not different. RB Leipzig’s Timo Werner has been likened to England’s Jamie Vardy and could lead the line in their first group game. Like Vardy, he has blistering pace and is prolific in front of goal so don’t be surprised to see him shooting into the limelight and shooting Germany to World Cup glory. However, don’t rule out Thomas Muller. The Bayern Munich forward has fallen out of favour at his club but is still one of Germany’s most important players and has bundles of World Cup experience having won the Golden Boot back in 2010 and scoring 5 goals in 2014.

Who’s in charge?

Joachim Low has been in charge of Germany for the last 12 years and has transformed the team from tournament maybes to tournament specialists. He’s reached the semi-final of every major tournament he’s ever entered as Germany manager while also winning the Confederations Cup last summer with arguably the country’s U21s. This man isn’t just known for his managerial ability, he went viral during the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2016 for some very gross actions while watching his team from the dugout. He’s been seen picking his nose, rolling the product in his fingers and snacking on it in South Africa and delving into his underwear with his hands and sniffing the same hand moments later in France. So, if you’re into that sort of thing, be sure to pay attention to his close-ups.

What’s their World Cup record like?

Not bad, I’ll give them that. As West Germany and just Germany itself, they’ve won the World Cup on four occasions and have been runners-up four times as well. That means they’ve been involved in 40% of all World Cup finals ever played. Like I mentioned earlier, they are the current holders of the trophy after Mario Gotze’s goal won the final against Argentina in Brazil four years ago.

And finally, can they win the 2018 World Cup?

If the final goes to a penalty shootout then expect a German hand to be lifting the trophy in Moscow because they last lost a shootout at a major tournament 42 years ago.