Pundit Arena’s Dáire O’Driscoll discusses the mood in Berlin ahead of Germany’s World Cup opener with Portugal in Salvador on June 16th.
Reliability, endurance, pace and goals are generally what one expects from a German World Cup team. Germany has made it to the semi finals in the last three World Cups, losing to the eventual winners on all three instances (including Brazil in the 2002 final), so one could be forgiven in labelling them as potential winners this time around.
The optimism of neutral supporters is not matched to the same extent with Germans themselves. The streets of Berlin, while full of “WM promos” and Hype (WM being the German abbreviation for Weltmeisterschaft – World Cup) the sense of optimism for a “Sommermärchen” (Summer fairy tale) is not matched amongst Berliners, renowned for their straight talking.
Germans who do not regularly follow football usually give way to the enthusiasm that the Euros or WM brings, and chant alongside the diehard football supporters for one month every two years. This sense of enthusiasm, whether it is simply late in coming or not coming at all, is somewhat absent from the streets of Germany’s capital.
The fact that two German teams contested last year’s Champions League Final and that both of those teams were knocked out of this year’s tournament by the eventual winners would suggest that Germany has a strong core group of players heading into Brazil 2014.
However, injuries have plagued the usually reliable German side and Joachim Loew’s 23-man squad is thin to say the least, containing only one striker, the veteran Miroslav Klose. Mind you that veteran has more World Cup goals than anyone else, bar Ronaldo (and compatriot Gerd Muller also on 14 goals), so his scoring pedigree certainly cannot be questioned.
Loew was quick to highlight the goalscoring ability they posses from midfield with the likes of Muller, Schurrle and Podolski, all of whom (perhaps with the exception of Schurrle) have had mediocre seasons.
The number one shirt will most certainly belong to Neuer once more, who could stake a claim to the world’s best goalkeeper accolade. In front of Neuer there is plenty of talent, most evidently in captain Philipp Lahm, his Bayern teammate Jerome Boateng and Arsenal man Per Mertesacker.
Mertesacker, who often comes in for some unfair criticism has enjoyed a good season at Arsenal. His defensive record was amongst the best in the Premier League and he was influential in Arsenal’s successful FA Cup campaign. This solid defensive unit will be key for Germany, who scored more goals on the counter attack at the last World Cup than any other side.
If Germany are to progress from arguably one of the toughest groups with the deceivingly dangerous Ghana, a potentially Ronaldo-less Portugal side and the USA, led by former German head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, it is vital that players like Muller, Podolski, Schurrle and Ozil find the net.
Judging from their often mediocre performances in the 2013/14 season, this may be overly optimistic.
However, Germany could still find themselves in the mix when it comes to the latter stages of the tournament. If they progress as group winners, which in reality they should, they will most likely find themselves pitted against either South Korea or Russia, teams that they should beat.
If Zee Germans slip up and finish second in Group H, it’s more than likely going to be a tough round of 16 game against a very talented Belgium side.
All in all, Germany has a wealth of talent at their disposal, most particularly in midfield. Whether or not that midfield threat will translate into goals and results remains to be seen. The questions won’t be answered today, nor will they be answered tomorrow. In truth they can only be answered come Monday June 16th when Germany take on Portugal in Salvador.
Without goals, Germany won’t win games. Without winning games, a Sommermärchen isn’t on the cards.
Dáire O’Driscoll, Pundit Arena.
Featured Image By Michael Kranewitter (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.