World Cup favourites: why Germany won't win in Brazil
It is 24 years since Germany last won the tournament. Are they becoming 'specialists in failure'?
As pub bores up and down the land know only too well, no European team has ever won the World Cup in South America. This time round Germany are being tipped to buck that trend, and lift the trophy for the first time in 24 years – their longest barren run since the competition began.
Germany may not have tasted success since winning the trophy in Italy in 1990 but, as everyone knows, they are nothing if not efficient. They have qualified for every tournament since 1954 and have never failed to make the last eight.
After the shock of losing in the quarter finals in 1994 and 1998, Germany made it all the way to the final in 2002, only to lose to Brazil. They have been losing semi-finalists at the last two World Cups and will want to improve on that performance this time round.
Their brand of attractive counter-attacking football was one of the highlights of the 2010 tournament, and after thrashing England and Argentina, their defeat to Spain was something of a surprise. Four years later and with many of the same players, now in the prime of their careers, Low's team could be on the path to glory once again.
Players to watch:
There is tried and tested quality throughout the squad and Low is almost overrun with attacking midfielders. The likes of Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller showed in 2010 that they can tear a team to pieces. This time round they will be fighting the likes of Julian Draxler, Andre Schurrle and Mario Gotze for a place in the side. Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger provide a solid base to midfield, while Bayern Munich defender Philipp Lahm has been transformed into a holding midfielder by Pep Guardiola. Per Mertesacker and Jerome Boateng will be in defence in front of goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
Why they could win it:
A glance at the squad list provides plenty of convincing arguments. A glance at their qualifying campaign provides plenty more. Germany won nine of their ten qualifying games and scored 36 goals in the process. On paper they have the necessary firepower.
This team has been hailed as the greatest since the days of Franz Beckenauer and Gerd Muller, and they peddle the type of fast, energetic football that has transformed the Bundesliga into Europe's most entertaining domestic league. Add to that Germany's reputation for ruthless efficiency, and Die Mannschaft look like real favourites, even more so than defending champions Spain.
Why they won't:
The problems faced by European teams in South America are well documented but that is only one of the factors counting against Germany.
Joachim Low still doesn't know his best team or even formation. "He has continually experimented with a false nine over the past couple of years, and Mario Gotze is likely to be fielded in that role at the top of a 4-2-3-1 – but things have not entirely clicked," says The Guardian.
Germany scored freely in qualifying, but only three per cent of their goals came from set pieces and they failed to score with a single header. What happens if their usual routes to goal are blocked? Low has few options at centre forward. Mario Gomez did not make the squad, Miroslav Klose is 35 and his untested understudy Kevin Volland is just 21. Opponents will also take heart from Germany's one slip in qualifying, when they somehow threw away a four goal lead against Sweden. In friendlies they have been just as generous and can ship goals with alarming regularity.
Germany also have a tough group. In addition to Portugal they must face Ghana and the USA. All three made it to the knockout stages in South Africa.
"History suggests this German team can falter in the latter stages against the bigger teams," warns Bleacher Report, and the Daily Telegraph goes further. "After their 2-1 semi-final defeat by Italy at Euro 2012, the reputation of ruthlessly efficient winners was replaced, however harshly, by a caricature of gifted but erratic nearly men," writes Jeremy Wilson.
There are plenty of Arsenal players in the Germany squad; could Low's squad become the new "specialists in failure"?
How far can they go?
Assuming they get out of their group as winners, they can expect to face Russia and then France, before lining up against Brazil in the last four, where the curse of the semi-final could well strike again.
What the bookies think:
Another semi-final appearance is on the cards, with Germany at 6/5 to make the last four. But they are 11/2 to win the tournament.