The German football team has a rich history at the World Cup, beginning from the time when it played as two separate teams (East and West) up until the 2014 edition where it was crowned champion for the fourth time.
The Russia 2018 World Cup saw Die Mannschaft finally face the ignominy it had avoided on three previous occasions: a first-round exit as defending champions.
Germany has been among a handful of teams to participate in the tournament on a consistent basis. In fact, ever since the qualification process was introduced ahead of the 1934 World Cup, Germany has qualified for all tournaments. The first World Cup (1930) was by invitation only and West Germany, along with several other European teams, turned down the offer for several reasons.
The other one it missed was in 1950, when it was banned in the aftermath of World War II.
West Germany entered the 1954 World Cup as an unseeded side making its comeback in the tournament, and left as champion after defeating the greatest Hungarian side ever in “The Miracle of Bern” final.
The seeds of greatness were sown, and the so-called German resilience came to the fore for the first time.
Germany’s other three title wins came in less surprising circumstances in 1974 as hosts, in 1990 in a dull 1-0 win over Argentina, and in 2014 against the same foes.
Following a disastrous run at the 2018 World Cup, the German side continued to struggle and was set to drop out of the UEFA Nations League until the number of teams was increased by UEFA.
Despite the losses, its World Cup-winning coach Joachim Low continued at the helm. Germany’s poor performance and round of 16 exit at the Euro 2020 ended Low’s reign. His assistant, Hansi Flick, then took over.
Flick’s reign brought a quick and hassle-free qualification for the World Cup with seven wins out of seven. While Germany’s results in the Nations League matches have not been the same, the World Cup squad is full of quality and has a balance of youth and experience.
It is certainly the last World Cup for the likes of captain and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and forward Thomas Muller. Both have had stellar World Cup runs. Muller, in particular, was a star for his side during the 2010 and 2014 tournaments. He has 10 World Cup goals, one Best Young Player award, one Golden Boot award, one Silver Boot award and was part of the World Cup All-Star XI in 2014.
He didn’t do much during his side’s terrible showing in 2018, and will be looking to make up for it in his fourth and possibly final World Cup.
But Flick’s side is not dependent on Muller’s form. The likes of Ilkay Gundogan, Joshua Kimmich and Jamal Musiala are well-equipped to run the show from the midfield. The front line includes 2014 final hero Mario Gotze, dependable forward Kai Havertz and Serge Gnabry – all of whom are capable of scoring goals.
While Germany might not be among the outright favourites this time around, fans of the Die Mannschaft will settle for nothing less than a record-equalling fifth title.
Despite being in a tricky group that includes Costa Rica, Japan and Spain, Germany should progress to the round of 16 and possibly reach the semi-finals. As the saying goes, never count out the Germans.