Rankings: FIFA (2), Elo (4), SPI (2)
Euro History: Champions (1972, 1980, 1996), Finals (1976, 1992, 2008), Semifinals (1988), Qualified (1984, 2000, 2004)
Last Five Tournaments: SF – F – SF – GS – F
History: England beat Germany in the 1966 World Cup Final. The English spent the next 40 years downing pints, composing obnoxious World War Two chants and entrusting their future to fate and English pluck. The Germans revamped their footballing culture, placing a far greater emphasis on technique and tactical discipline. Guess which country has been to the final of 11 major tournaments since.
Germany has a record to rival any other nation. One can begin with Beckenbauer and run down the list of some of the game’s greatest players. By their standards, though, the Germans are in a bit of a slump. They have gone 16 years without winning a major trophy (last triumph: Euro 1996). They squandered opportunities to win in 2002, 2006, 2008 and 2010. The fourth time is a trend. The fifth time risks becoming a psychosis.
The last three efforts were nice runs amidst transition. This year, Germany has a perfect and potent mixture of experience and the world’s best array of young talent. Anything less than the trophy would and should be deemed a failure.
Qualification: Never in doubt. The Germans were the only team to go through a six-country group unscathed, with a perfect 10-0-0 record and a +27 goal difference. They were held to a single goal once, a 1-0 away win in their first match against Belgium. They did, however, lose 2-1 to France in their most recent friendly.
Coach: Joachim Löw may be international soccer’s best coach. He has been with Germany since 2004 and assumed the head job after the 2006 World Cup. During that period Germany has reached at least the semifinal of every major tournament. With his fortitude, his flexibility and his integration of young talent, Löw has succeeded in his second term where most international coaches falter.
Squad: The Germans should be dominant. They have the deep, versatile and gifted squad. Their defense is outstanding. Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer is among the worlds’s best goalkeepers. He will be fronted by the tournament’s best back four in Lahm, Hummels, Badstuber and whoever the other fullback will be, possibly Boateng.
Euro 2012’s best defensive midfield will protect that group. Two of Kroos, Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira will start. All three are excellent defenders and distributors and are dangerous going forward. The trio in attack likely will be Thomas Muller, Mesut “Avatar Eyes” Ozil and Lukas Podolski, though Kroos can also play there. They have a ton of depth behind that. Andre Schurrle and Marco Reus are both brilliant creative talent. Mario Gotze, a 19-year-old described as the next Messi, may struggle to even see the field. Coming off a hip injury, he has not played a full 90 minutes since November.
Striker is the only place the Germans underwhelm, and only slightly. It’s hard to quibble with Mario Gomez, a physical presence and top-class finisher who has scored about 80 goals for Bayern Munich the past two seasons. That said, he has games where he loses composure and becomes ineffective (see Champions League Final). With the old war horse MIroslav Klose and eight-goal scorer Cacau, Germany does not have much depth behind him. Should Gomez falter the next best option might be Lukas Podolski.
Tactics: Germany has an intelligent and very skillful squad. Löw will play a 4-2-3-1 with a firm defensive base and release their shackles going forward. This is a more seasoned team then the group Germany sent to South Africa, and that team assassinated England and Argentina by an 8-1 margin en route to a closely fought semifinal with Spain.
Champions League Hangover: Eight Bayern Munich players, all probable starters, just got rattled. They did not just lose the Champions League Final, but lost at home in a game they controlled with three missed penalties. The iconic image was Bastien Schweinsteiger on the opposite side of the field with his back turned, unable to watch. It’s not clear how that trauma will effect this team, but it can’t be a positive. If the Germans come out flat, you may see an infusion of Dortmund players.
Politics: Multiple Germans have expressed displeasure with host Ukraine’s imprisonment of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko. Germany captain Philipp Lahm called out the Ukraine government for human rights violations. German chancellor Angela Merkel has threatened to boycott the tournament.
Prognosis: On paper, they should overwhelm every team they face en route to the final. The question is whether they can win the tournament and raise their game against great opposition in that one decisive moment. They are capable but also unproven. Germany should be favorites to win Group B. Should they do so, they would avoid Spain and a rematch with the Netherlands until the final.
Fun Fact: Patrons consume on average about 1.82 million gallons of beer during Munich’s Oktoberfest.
[Photos via Presswire]