The Squad: Jens Lehmann (Arsenal), Oliver Kahn (Bayern Munich), Timo Hildebrand (VfB Stuttgart); Robert Huth (Chelsea), Arne Friedrich (Hertha Berlin), Marcell Jansen (Borussia Monchengladbach), Per Mertesacker (Hannover 96), Christoph Metzelder (Borussia Dortmund), Jens Nowotny (Bayer Leverkusen), Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich); Michael Ballack (Chelsea), Thorsten Frings (Werder Bremen), Tim Borowski (Werder Bremen), Thomas Hitzlsperger (VfB Stuttgart), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich), Bernd Schneider (Bayer Leverkusen), Sebastian Kehl (Borussia Dortmund); Lukas Podolski (Cologne), Gerald Asamoah (Schalke 04), Miroslav Klose (Werder Bremen), Mike Hanke (Wolfsburg), Oliver Neuville (Borussia Monchengladbach), David Odonkor (Borussia Dortmund).
How Qualified : Host Nation.
World Ranking : 19.
Previous Appearances : (15) 1934, 1938, 1954, 1958, 1962, 1966, 1970, 1974, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002.
Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann.
Expected Line-up : (4-4-2 or 4-3-1-2) Lehmann; Friedrich, Mertesacker, Nowotny, Lahm; Schneider, Frings, Ballack, Borowski; Podolski, Klose
Michael Warren :
Germany has one of the proudest World Cup records on show. They have lifted the Jules Rimet Trophy in 1954, 1974 and 1990, albeit all as West Germany. They have reached the final on another four occasions, and in their fifteen appearances, they’ve only failed to reach the last eight once, in 1938. That, coupled with the fact that they are hosting the tournament, should mean that the Germans are one of the favourites. However feelings on Germany’s chances are mixed to say the least.
On the plus point is the inclusion of their Chelsea-bound captain Michael Ballack. His presence is of great importance for Germany as he is their one true World Class player. One of the key aspects of Ballack is his versatility in midfield. Although he very comfortable in an attacking role, but in his last season for Bayern Munich Ballack has played in the deeper role where he is able to direct the play. He also is an excellent header of the ball as well as very good with free kicks. All of this, combined with the fact he’s as deadly with both his left and right foot has led to his scoring 30 goals in 63 appearances at international level alone, an excellent record for a midfielder. He is one of the most complete players to ever play for Germany and he will be a great danger for any opposition.
Another positive for Germany comes in the form of their new look forward line of Miroslav Klose and Lucas Podolski. Germany 2006 will not be 20 year old Podolski’s first major international tournament as he appeared for Germany in their disastrous Euro 2004 campaign, becoming their youngest ever international in the process. He made more of an impression in the Confederations Cup the next year by scoring three goals in Germany’s run to the semi-finals, and overall he has scored an impressive 12 goals in 23 appearances. For Klose, this will be his second World Cup after his successful debut four years ago. He scored five goals which placed him second behind Ronaldo in the race for that years golden boot, although three of those goals came against an awful Saudi Arabia team. Overall though Klose has scored 21 goals in 52 appearances for his country, so he should not be viewed as a one trick pony. With their combined scoring records for the national team Podolski and Klose will make for a very threatening strike partnership for any defence.
Despite these positives as well as the fact that they’ll have home support many pundits are sceptical about Germany’s chances. One of the key reasons for this is coach Jurgen Klinsmann. As a player Klinsmann had a glittering career and even won the World Cup with West Germany in 1990, as well as Euro ’96 with a unified Germany. However as a manager Klinsmann is unproven. When he was called into replace Rudi Voeller as Germany coach in 2004, Klinsmann had had no previous managerial experience. Many people were sceptical about the appointment, pointing out to his inexperience as manager as a major disadvantage as well as the fact he refused to move to Germany and instead decide to stay at his home in California which was seen as a lack in dedication. Their argument has been strengthened by defeats in friendly games against Italy and Slovakia. There is great pressure on Klinsmann to deliver in this tournament, but in big pressure situations, no-one quite knows how he will cope, which will worry many in Germany
Another factor going against the Germans is their defence. Led by 32 year-old Jens Nowotny the German defence has come under fire in recent months. Nowotny will be partnered in central defence by Per Mertesacker, who has been described as ‘a squeaky-clean defender’ who ‘seems to hate to tackle’. These are not qualities in a defender that would fill many people with confidence. Their two full back that are expected to start are seen as weak. Right back Arne Friedrich is poor when attacking and is more suited in the centre-half position; whilst left back Philip Lahm is right footed and has only took part in eleven games for Bayern Munich this season having only just recovered from ankle and cruciate ligament injuries. Nowotny has a job on his hands to just keep his defence organised.
So how will Germany do in this year’s World Cup? It’s very hard to call. On the one hand Jurgen Klinsmann has not proved himself as a manager and is being thrown in at the deep end; and the German defence does have a tendency to go wayward. However, this is Germany we’re talking about. They always do well in the World Cup. For example their squad four years was seen as one of the weakest ever, but they still managed to reach the final – albeit through having an easy route there. If Germany are to do well this time around, they will have to rely on Michael Ballack to lead from example, as well as the two strikers to get the goals. They are fortunate that they a relatively easy group to progress from, but as their second round opponents will likely be either England or Sweden they need to be on form to go any further. Overall Germany can go far, but they need to be very careful as it can just as easily go wrong.