Germany were in unstoppable form during qualifying, topping Group C of the European section after winning all ten of their matches and scoring 43 goals in all as they romped to a goal difference of +39.
After Thomas Muller scored four goals in the opening two games to help Germany to victories against Norway and the Czech Republic, Joachim Löw’s team never looked back. They put 15 past San Marino in their two games against the minnows, before hitting Norway for six back in September.
A 3-1 win in Northern Ireland sealed their progress, and they finished with a flourish by completing their 100 per cent record with a 5-1 win against Azerbaijan – Sandro Wagner’s goal in that final game ensuring he finished level with Thomas Muller as joint top scorer with five goals in the group.
Germany are one of the most successful nations in World Cup history, having sealed their fourth triumph in Brazil last time out when Mario Gotze fired them to victory in the final against Argentina. Germany’s other triumphs came in 1954 in Switzerland, 1974 as host nation and at Italia 1990.
Only Brazil have now won more, while Germany have also finished as runners-up on four occasions and finished third four times too – including the two tournaments prior to their Brazil 2014 triumph. Interestingly, however, they have never managed to defend their title before.
Germany’s squad some of the most notable omissions from the whole tournament. First came the news that Mario Gotze, who scored the winning goal in the final four years ago, would not feature this time – his fitness issues and loss of form meaning he was not even in Joachim Low’s longlist. Emre Can and Lars Stindl missed out through injury, while Sandro Wagner was also not on the 27-man list. Then Low caused another surprise when it was revealed Manchester City’s PFA Young Player of the Year was surplus to requirements – the Premier League title winner one of the four players cut ahead of the World Cup. Goalkeeper and captain Manuel Neuer does make it, however – proving his fitness despite missing the majority of the season after he picked up a foot injury in September.
Germany are blessed with strength in depth all over the pitch, not least in attack where 22-year-old Timo Werner will be looking to prove himself. He won the golden boot at the Confederations Cup last summer, and took his RB Leipzig tally past 40 in two seasons with another decent return in front of goal at club level this season too. Werner is the future star, whereas Thomas Muller is the super-experienced forward and scorer of ten World Cup goals across the last two tournaments – winning the golden boot in 2010. He was also joint-top scorer in qualifying. Mesut Ozil provides the creativity behind
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After sealing qualification to the World Cup with a 100 per cent record from their ten games, it is a little ironic that Germany failed to win any of their next five matches – drawing friendlies with England, France and Spain before a 1-0 defeat to Brazil and, most recently, a 2-1 loss to Austria despite Mesut Ozil’s early goal. They had to come from behind twice against France, as Timo Werner and Lars Stindl scored – the latter in the last minute – and then again against Spain when Thomas Muller grabbed the goal. Against Brazil, however, Gabriel Jesus’ strike proved the only goal of the game, while Austria scored two second-half goals to turn their rain-hit clash on its head. They ensured they would go into the World Cup on the back of a win by beating Saudi Arabia 2-1 in their final warm-up, however – Timo Werner and an own goal proving the difference.
1 – Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich) – Age 32 – 76 caps/0 goals
12 – Kevin Trapp (Paris Saint-Germain) – Age 27 – 3 caps/0 goals
22 – Marc-Andre Ter Stegen (Barcelona) – Age 26 – 20 caps/0 goals
2 – Marcin Plattenhardt (Hertha BSC) – Age 26 – 6 caps/0 goals
3 – Jonas Hector (FC Cologne) – Age 28 – 38 caps/3 goals
4 – Matthias Ginter (Borussia Monchengladbach) – Age 24 – 18 caps/0 goals
5 – Mats Hummels (Bayern Munich) – Age 29 – 64 caps/5 goals
15 – Niklas Sule (Bayern Munich) – Age 22 – 11 caps/0 goals
16 – Antonio Rudiger (Chelsea) – Age 25 – 24 caps/1 goal
17 – Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich) – Age 29 – 71 caps/1 goal
18 – Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich) – Age 23 – 29 caps/3 goals
6 – Sami Khedira (Juventus) – Age 31 – 75 caps/7 goals
7 – Julian Draxler (Paris Saint-Germain) – Age 24 – 44 caps/6 goals
8 – Toni Kroos (Real Madrid) – Age 28 – 83 caps/12 goals
10 – Mesut Ozil (Arsenal) – Age 29 – 90 caps/23 goals
14 – Leon Goretzka (Schalke 04) – Age 23 – 15 caps/6 goals
19 – Sebastian Rudy (Bayern Munich) – Age 28 – 25 caps/1 goal
20 – Julian Brandt (Bayer Leverkusen) – Age 22 – 16 caps/1 goal
21 – Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City) – Age 27 – 26 caps/4 goals
9 – Timo Werner (RB Leipzig) – Age 22 – 14 caps/8 goals
11 – Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund) – Age 20 – 31 caps/9 goals
13 – Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich) – Age 28 – 91 caps/38 goals
23 – Mario Gomez (VfB Stuttgart) – Age 32 – 75 caps/31 goals
Winners four years ago, Germany are joint-favourites to do what no nation has done since Brazil in 1962 – win back-to-back tournaments. It is Brazil who represent their biggest threat, but you can back Germany at 9/2 with Bet365 to lift the trophy in Russia.
Brazil are Germany’s most likely final opponents, should they get that far, but the draw has definitely been favourable as both sides need only top their groups – which on paper they certainly should – to avoid each other until that potential final.
Germany are 1/3 to get the better of Mexico, Sweden and South Korea and win Group F, and if they do they will find a favourable run to the final from there. Switzerland or Serbia appear their most likely last-16 opponents, and Germany will fancy their chances of reaching the quarter-finals.
They are 1/2 to reach a quarter-final that will likely be played against one of Poland, Belgium, Colombia or England. Again they will go into all of those potential games as favourites, hence being evens with Bet365 to reach the semi-finals. If all has gone as expected, Spain will be their opponents there. They drew their most recent friendly 1-1, but Germany remain favourites to reach the final at 9/4 with Bet365.
Brazil beat them in their most recent friendly, however, and if both co-favourites do progress all the way to the final, it could be the Brazilians who win in a repeat of the 2002 final. A Brazil vs Germany final will return 12/1 with Bet365, while Germany finishing as runners-up is 11/2 with Bet365.
Germany have always had contenders for the Golden Boot, meanwhile, with Miroslav Klose and Thomas Muller both among the recent former winners, and the latter scoring another five in Brazil four years ago. Muller is as high as 26/1 with Bet365 to win another Golden Boot, but more likely is in-form Timo Werner. The 22-year-old is 16/1 with Bet365 to be top scorer in Russia.
Germany were in stunning form four years ago, with their 7-1 demolition of hosts Brazil in the semi-final a particular highlight. But Brazil beat them in a friendly in March, and with both teams expected to reach the final this time, the Selecao will be out for revenge on the biggest stage.
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Complete list of 32 teams participating in World Cup 2018 and their Group Predictions