We preview the 2010 FIFA World Cup, set for June 11-July 11 in South Africa.
Appearance: 16th, 15th consecutive
Last time there: 2006, lost in semifinals
Best performance: Three-time champion (1954, 1974, 1990)
Let's not kid ourselves. The Germans are a tough, talented team, and they rarely disappoint on this big stage. In fact, Germany has reached at least the quarterfinal round of every World Cup since a second-round exit in 1978. It's a run of consistency unmatched by any country in the world, even commonly-recognized powerhouses like Brazil and Italy.
In that stretch Germany has just one championship, but they have been runners-up three times, lost once in the semifinals, and twice in the championship match.
Coach Joachim Low took over from Jurgen Klinsmann after the now-analyst decided to step aside in 2006. Low has proven more than capable of keeping the Germans at a high level. They blew through UEFA qualifying without a defeat, with the major flaws being two draws against Finland.
Why so consistent? There just aren't a lot of holes in their team. You won't find many steadier defenders than guys like Andreas Beck and Heiko Westermann. They protect a strong goalkeeper in the relatively young (25) Rene Adler.
In the midfield, captain Michael Ballack is a very strong presence. He is a great passer, and he contributed four goals during qualifying. Bastian Schweinsteiger is not only a great name, but he's a great player. He's younger than Ballack by close to a decade, and he shows it with his elite speed and playmaking skills. Mesut Ozil is a superb attacking midfielder, and the three will do their part to set up striker Miroslav Klose, who led his team in goals during qualifying and will be a tough player to shut down, especially once we get into the knockout phase.
The starting 11 is very strong. They have leadership, experience, talent, speed, strength, offense, and defense.
There are flaws, however.
Germany's lack of depth is notable, and it is likely to hurt them at some point in this tournament. While they did escape qualifying unbeaten, they were held off the board for long stretches, and it seems they can become frustrated offensively if they don't get enough open field to work with.
If they can stay healthy, however, they can beat any team with virtually any style imaginable. A group draw of Ghana, Australia, and Serbia probably doesn't threaten them much, though Ghana has some speed up front that could trouble them, and Serbia and Australia should at least be seen as teams that could grind out a goalless draw if Germany isn't controlling possession enough.
June 13 vs. Australia (Durban)
June 18 vs. Serbia (Port Elizabeth)
June 23 vs. Ghana (Johannesburg -- Soccer City)