As the anticipation has built over the past few months, the FIFA 2018 World Cup has finally got underway. Over the course of 32 days, no fewer than 64 matches will be played in a quest to find out who will climb to the game’s global summit.
Four years ago the tournament was held in Brazil and it was Germany who came away as victors after beating Argentina 1-0 in the final. A Mario Gotze strike in extra-time was enough to earn the Germans a fourth overall World Cup success.
The question that many are now asking is whether they can go on to make it number five in Russia. If they were to do so then they would become the first nation since Brazil in 1962 to win successive tournaments and only the third in the competition’s history after Italy achieved the same feat in 1938.
Joachim Low’s squad of 23 players went into the tournament as second favourites behind Brazil with their World Cup 2018 winners odds of 5/1, while the South American nation led by the likes of Neymar and Philippe Coutinho topped the list at the slightly shorter price of 4/1.
What could play into Germany’s favour though is the fact that the World Cup is being played on European soil. More often than not a tournament played on this continent will also go on to provide the winner.
The only time that has not happened was back in 1958 when Sweden hosted the tournament; that year, Brazil went onto conquer the world for the first time as a 17-year-old Pele burst onto the scene after scoring a brace in the 5-2 final win over the hosts.
Not only could Germany put continental advantage to good use, but they also have recent experience of winning an international tournament in Russia. It may have only been the FIFA Confederations Cup that they lifted last Summer, but success there will have only further harboured the winning mentality that the Germans possess.
In addition to that, one should not forget the fact that success in Russia last summer came with a near-reserve squad. This is something that would have created concern for Germany’s rivals, as this only highlights their strength in depth.
That’s a point which was further reinforced when manager Joachim Low decided to leave Manchester City’s Leroy Sane out of the squad. The former Schalke star has currently got 12 international caps to his name and even after an impressive season under Pep Guardiola, he could not force his way to Russia.
Although that’s a huge disappointment for the 22-year-old, it just goes to show just how talented this select group of players are and at least Sane will be able to take solace in the fact that there are plenty of international tournaments ahead of him.
Four years down the line, Sane will be 26 years of age and approaching the peak of his career. At that point, he could well be representing a Germany side that travels to Qatar in 2022 as back-to-back winners of the game’s richest prize.
It’s hard to win a World Cup and even harder to defend it, but if anyone is capable of doing so in the modern era, it is this German squad. They may only have been second favourites but as the old adage says, “never write off the Germans”.