Germany in good shape for South Africa
Posted 2nd December 2009
The countdown to the 2010 World Cup has started in earnest. With the 32 qualifiers now known and the tournament draw around the corner, each nation can start planning properly for the first African World Cup.
For Germany, making their 15th consecutive World Cup appearance, this is a familiar process. Die Mannschaft can be relied upon to be protagonists in the latter stages of the event, having reached at least the semi-final in 10 of those 14 most recent appearances.
This record brings pressure – although it should be noted that Germany's efforts in 2002 and 2006 exceeded expectations in most quarters – and Joachim Löw will know that he is in charge of a team that starts as one of the favourites in every tournament they enter.
Germany will inevitably be one of the eight top seeds but there must be serious questions about whether the current crop of players can deliver in South Africa. Germany had a fortuitous draw in 2002 and home advantage to thank in 2006, but do they possess the star quality this time around to go all the way?
Bastien Schweinsteiger, Lucas Podolski and Philipp Lahm are stalwarts familiar to fans around the world who still form the nucleus of the team, although fellow big names Miroslav Klose, Michael Ballack and Torsten Frings, have, for varying reasons, been absent recently.
It would be a surprise if they did not feature next year, but it has been evident in Germany for some time that some new blood is needed if the team is to win a major tournament for the first time since 1996.
That regeneration process is gathering pace at the right time. Red-hot Bayer Leverkusen hit man Stefan Kiessling and the trio of Werder Bremen midfielders Mesut Ozil, Aaron Hunt and Marko Marin represent an exciting future and the possibility of improved World Cup odds for Germany.
They might also deliver in the short-term. They might be inexperienced, but they are talented enough to inspire Germany to progress from dark horses to genuine contenders.