World Cup champions on four occasions, including the last tournament in 2014, defending champions Germany swept aside all opposition in an outstanding qualifying campaign performance, setting the record for the best-ever World Cup qualifying campaign by a European team. Putting on an absolutely ruthless display, the Germans won all ten of their games, finishing with an unprecedented goal difference of +39. The fact that the goals were spread amongst 21 separate scorers shows that coach Joachim Low has a squad depth to rival that of France’s, and the stage is set for Germany to repeat their success of four years ago in Brazil.
Germany’s dominance of world football at both senior and under-21s levels in recent years means that Low has never had a greater number of talented players at his disposal. Using a total of 37 players during qualifying, tough decisions will have to be made as to who travels to Russia in the summer, but no matter who Low chooses, the German squad will still have the most versatility at the finals. They have the option of playing a lone striker, a false nine, or even a strike partnership up top, all being fed chance after chance by Toni Kroos, a footballing wizard in midfield. Certainly in light of the evidence we have seen in the build up to this World Cup, you would be forgiven for expecting Germany to walk through to the final.
- Toni Kroos (Real Madrid) – Perhaps the greatest central midfielder the world has ever seen, Kroos has consistently been getting better and better every season. His ice-cool composure ensures that he always has an extra second on the ball in the middle of the park, from where he bosses games and dictates the speed of the play. No other midfielder in the game can compete with Kroos’ vision or distribution. If Germany are to win the tournament this summer, I expect Kroos to be the man that drives them there.
- Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich) – The young right-back, Kimmich has established himself in this Germany side, the only player to feature in every game during the qualifiers. With his pace and willingness to get forward, he is a serious threat to opposition defences, as can be seen by his nine assists. Even though he has a vast amount of experience behind him for such a young player, he needs to ensure he keeps his discipline in check this summer, as the right-back position is perhaps the only one that Low does not have a plethora of stars to fill.
Joachim Low – Appointed in July 2006, ‘Jogi’ Low is Europe’s longest-serving national coach. He has done an outstanding job with the Germans so far, culminating in winning the World Cup in 2014. With the squad available to him for this tournament, the nation will be expecting another triumph this time around, and Low must believe that he can deliver.