The disappointment of a humbling warm-up loss to Austria was almost necessary for a Germany squad built to become the first team in more than half a century to repeat as world champions.
Joachim Low’s side is arguably stronger than the squad that lifted the trophy in Brazil, as Germany’s golden generation booked their ticket to Russia with a perfect qualifying record – extending an unbeaten streak in official World Cup matches that dates back to the 2010 semi-final.
Trimming down the squad is always a controversial process, but there’s no doubting Low’s chosen collection of stars is poised to bring Germany level with Brazil with a record-tying fifth World Cup triumph.
Group stage schedule
|June 17||Mexico||11:00 a.m.|
|June 23||Sweden||2:00 p.m.|
|June 27||South Korea||10:00 a.m.|
Projected starting XI
One glance, and it’s obvious Germany’s starting XI is the envy of the world. With a collection of the game’s best players from top to bottom, the challenge for Low is finding the perfect mix and system to get the most out of his supremely talented squad.
Although a majority of the stacked German squad have already solidified their starting places, rising stars Timo Werner and Joshua Kimmich have done more than enough to earn their spots. Kimmich has emerged as one of the most dynamic young players in football after successfully filling the massive void left by Philipp Lahm at Bayern Munich, while Werner displayed his scoring touch at the Confederations Cup and proved he’s prepared to lead Germany’s attack.
Elsewhere, a boost is the return of Marco Reus, who finally has a chance to shine on the international stage after the Borussia Dortmund star missed out on hoisting the World Cup trophy in 2014 through injury.
Related: Full squad lists for each nation
Manager: Joachim Low
Low seems like he has the easiest job in world football, given the abundance of talent at his disposal. But the pressures of choosing from a seemingly bottomless pool – and the scrutiny that follows – is often overlooked
Despite selecting a collection of the game’s best players, decisions to drop Leroy Sane and Mario Gotze, who scored the World Cup-winning goal in 2014, were controversial as much as they were expected for a manager who has been making such bold calls for over a decade.
It’s a distraction that will be quickly forgotten if Germany lives up to the lofty expectations and secures Low’s place as one of the World Cup’s most successful managers with another triumph.
Key player: Manuel Neuer
There’s no greater example of how important Manuel Neuer is to the national team than confirmation the world’s most revered goalkeeper is Germany’s No. 1 despite sitting out the majority of the season with a foot injury.
In a team not short on elite goalkeepers, there was still hardly any doubt over Neuer’s role in Russia when he was cleared to play. His return has been encouraging for a goalkeeper whose presence and influence is often the driving force behind German’s success.
Breakout star: Timo Werner
While the current generation has yet to show signs of slowing down, there’s an emerging crop of players more than capable of fueling Germany’s dominance for years to come.
This could be the summer Werner announces himself to the world. In front of a world-class midfield, the 22-year-old could be poised to become one of the youngest Golden Boot winners if he’s given a chance and displays the type of form that’s made him one of Germany’s hottest young talents.
Fans should be happy if…
Germany obviously comes into the World Cup with higher expectations than most, as a failure to even make the final could be considered a disaster for nation with such a rich history.
Ending the tournament without winners’ medals won’t be the end of the world, but the manner of any exit could pave the way for questions over Low’s future beyond Russia.
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)