World Cup 2014 Preview: Big expectations for Germany

 

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In World Cup play, they finished as runners-up in 2002 before back-to-back third-place finishes in 2006 and 2010, while European Championship action has seen the nation lose to Spain in the 2008 final and Italy in the 2012 semifinals.

And while no European country has ever won a World Cup on South American soil, there is a mindset in Germany that anything short of winning the historic Jules Rimet Trophy in Brazil would be a failure.

Germany, always on the short list of teams capable of winning the competition, cruised through a potentially tricky qualification group that included the likes of Sweden, Austria and Ireland, winning nine and going unbeaten in its 10 matches.

Mesut Ozil was the star of Germany's qualification campaign with a group-high eight goals, but the midfielder has faded in club play this season. He made a high-profile switch to Arsenal and started brightly, but he was unable to maintain the high level of play, even when injuries to key midfielders like Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott should have given Ozil an even greater opportunity to flourish.

It was also a particularly disappointing club season for many of Ozil's compatriots at Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga.

Bayern, loaded with players from the German national team, enjoyed a record- breaking Bundesliga campaign but crashed out of Champions League play in a dismal semifinal performance against Real Madrid that saw the Germans lose 5-0 on aggregate.

It was the type of result that would have one second-guessing Germany's chances in the later stages of the World Cup, but one inherent advantage that the nation boasts over its competitors this summer is the high degree of continuity from club football to international football.

The German squad is predominantly comprised of Bayern Munich players, meaning that the likes of Mario Gotze, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos, Philipp Lahm, Jerome Boateng and Manuel Neuer play together all year round.

The remainder of Germany's roster is filled with established players at both the club and international level.

At the back, Mats Hummels of Borussia Dortmund has been one of the Bundesliga's best defenders in recent years, while Per Mertesacker is coming off of one of his best seasons at Arsenal.

Higher up the pitch, Marco Reus, also of Dortmund, has proven himself to be a highly effective and adaptable player, a valuable commodity in a month-long tournament.

The pieces are in place for Germany to emerge from the "Group of Death," which consists of Portugal, Ghana and the United States, but the lack of pure strikers in the roster may end up being the nation's Achilles heel.

Mario Gomez, one of Germany's better forward options, was left off of Joachim Loew's preliminary roster, placing a great deal of pressure on the rest of the national team to produce goals.

Miroslav Klose, Germany's all-time leading scorer, was included in the roster, but at the age of 36, it's fair to wonder how much the Lazio striker has left in the tank.

It will be up to Muller, Reus, Lukas Podolski and Germany's supporting midfielders to shoulder the bulk of the scoring responsibilities, or the nation could face a premature exit.

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