Germany were considered one of the leading contenders for the 2018 World Cup to become the first side since Brazil to win back-to-back titles. However, Die Mannschaft suffered the same fate as the previous three world champions, being eliminated in the group stage.
Joachim Low’s men entered the competition struggling for form, winning only one of their previous six matches, which came against Saudi Arabia in their warm-up game ahead of the tournament. They made an atrocious start to their Group F campaign, losing 1-0 to Mexico, although the scoreline could have been further in their opponents’ favour.
Sweden had Low’s side well and truly on the back foot in the opening 45 minutes of their second match. Ola Toivonen opened the scoring before Manuel Neuer was forced into an outstanding stop to deny Marcus Berg on the stroke of half-time. Marco Reus equalised after the break, but Germany still looked poised for an uphill challenge in their final match to avoid a premature exit until Toni Kroos curled home the winner in the final minute of stoppage time.
The result should have been a spark for a surge towards the latter stages of the World Cup. Germany put forward an awful performance against South Korea in their final match, failing to find a clinical edge in the final third. Sweden’s lead against Mexico forced their hand to go for a winner, but yielded only a late collapse as goals from Kim Young-Gwon and Son Heung-Min dumped them out of the competition. It was the first time since 1938 that Die Mannschaft have been eliminated at the group stage of the tournament. Low’s men have followed the path of France, Italy and Spain to have won the World Cup then falling at the first hurdle in the next competition.
Germany will bounce back as they always have done in the past, although their departure leaves the World Cup open for a new champion and without one of the strongest sides in Oddschecker’s selected odds to win the tournament. Die Mannschaft will have to watch from home and regroup for a charge in Qatar in four years time. We’ll now look at their squad that could return in a charge for glory in 2022.
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Germany are blessed with talent in the keeper position. Neuer is only 32, still relatively young in terms of goalkeepers, who are known to not reach their prime until their mid-thirties. However, his injury history is a concern, having played only four matches before the World Cup. At times, it did show during the tournament, although he did make a couple of fine stops along the way, keeping his side within one goal against Sweden. His fitness could play a role in whether Germany wish to continue with him in the future.
Neuer will be 36 at the time of the next World Cup, while there is ample talent waiting behind him. Marc-Andre ter Stegen will be the top candidate, who has excelled at Barcelona. He is very similar to Neuer in his style of play and has produced a similarly high standard of shot-stopping skill between the sticks. At the age of 26, he will be entering the prime years of his career at the next tournament. Therefore it could be a logical step to move into the next era of German football with a new man in goal. Kevin Trapp and Bernd Leno could provide pressure, but are a similar age to Ter Stegen.
Die Mannschaft were appalling at the back during the tournament. They were far too open, with little understanding between their centre-backs, while the full-backs also had issues overcommitting in the final third. Jerome Boateng was putrid and capped his underwhelming displays with a dismissal against Sweden that saw him miss the defeat to South Korea. At the age of 29 Boateng will probably have played his last game at the World Cup, while the same could be said of Mats Hummels, who was not a great deal better than his Bayern team-mate.
There’s talent coming through the ranks with Antonio Rudiger and Niklas Sule boasting the potential to form a tandem as a strong as the Hummels-Boateng combination at their prime. Jonathan Tah and Matthias Ginter will apply pressure, while Benjamin Heinrichs has the versatility to slot into the middle. Waldemar Anton’s progress is also worth monitoring after becoming a regular at Hannover 96. Joshua Kimmich will have the right-back slot nailed down, although he will have to have a long hard look at his displays in the competition. Marvin Plattenhardt and Jonas Hector were underwhelming in their time on the pitch, with Henrichs waiting in the wings to replace them in the future.
The strength of the German side was supposed to come from the middle of the park so much so Leroy Sane was left out. That decision looks to have been a foolish one from Low, despite his slight difference in style of play. Expect Sane to become a key cog in Germany’s fortunes moving forward as he continues to star for Manchester City. Die Mannschaft will look to move on from Sami Khedira, while time could also be against Mesut Ozil and Sebastian Rudy.
Kroos had a shining moment, but he was still well below-par. He is a class act and it would be a surprise not to see him at the next competition at the age of 32. Germany will be looking at Julian Draxler, Leon Goretzka and Julian Brandt to take charge of their surge in the future.
Emre Can, Serge Gnabry, Mahmoud Dahoud, Felix Passlack and Nadiem Amiri are all available in the future coming through the system. Their development will be crucial moving forward, while the flexibility in formations must also be a key factor to get the best out of Sane, Gnabry and Amin Younes. There is almost too much talent for Germany in the midfield, which may have muddled Low’s thinking in Russia, especially given their problems in the final third.
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This is the biggest area of concern for Germany moving ahead into 2022. Thomas Muller has been moulded by Bayern into a support player rather than an out-and-out striker. He struggled to find his rhythm at the tournament, never seeming quite sure where he was lining up. Muller’s record at international level is outstanding, scoring 38 goals in 93 appearances. Should he get back to his best in front of goal playing as a central striker, even at the age of 32 he will be part of the next squad. Whether that occurs at Bayern or elsewhere will be defining for the forward.
Mario Gomez’s selection highlighted the issues Germany have had developing frontmen. His time in a Germany shirt should be at an end after their exit. Marco Reus is brilliant when fit, but those moments are few and far between, while he’s more of a supporting forward then an out-and-out striker. Timo Werner was one of the biggest disappointments of the World Cup for Die Mannschaft.
He put forward two impressive campaigns for RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga, while had notched eight goals in 14 games for Germany heading into the tournament. However, he could not translate that form to the big stage, failing to offer the presence through the middle his side sorely needed. The 22-year-old has the potential to be a superstar for Die Mannschaft and could be the long-term replacement for Robert Lewandowski at Bayern. Out of all the players, Germany need to improve for 2022, Werner may be the most important of all as there is not a great deal of talent coming through the ranks behind him at the moment.
Germany have talent coming through the ranks to make another charge at the World Cup in four years time in three areas of the field. However, the most important position remains unknown as their failure this time around was down to their lack of threat in their opponents’ box. England did not know Harry Kane was going to develop into a superstar four years ago; therefore, there’s hope for Die Mannschaft and knowing Germany, and someone will rise up and become a superstar in time for the competition in Qatar.