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The Nationalmannschaft have won the World Cup three times
June 1, 20145:00AM ET
Players to watch
Surprise, surprise: the Germans have an absolute embarrassment of riches, especially in the midfield. Mesut Özil, despite coming off an up-and-down season for club team Arsenal, remains one of the truest number 10s in the world, a gifted all-around playmaker who will head up a terrifying attack. Although Marco Reus was cruelly ruled out by an ankle injury suffered in Germany's final friendly, Mario Götze of Bayern Munich is already a generational talent at the ripe age of 22. And shoring up the back line is one of Europe’s hottest young talents in Mats Hummels. Oh, and we haven’t even mentioned the veteran duo of Bayern Munich teammates Bastian Schweinsteiger, one of the greatest box-to-box midfielders of his generation, and Phillip Lahm, the Nationalmannschaft skipper, who together will lead yet another blistering team chiseled out of the ruthless, impregnable rock of German soccer lore.
The three times that Germany has won the tournament — 1954, 1974 and 1990 — could all qualify. But its second win was likely its best team, led by Gerd Müller and Franz Beckenbauer, as well as its most impressive victory, coming as it did against a sumptuous Dutch squad led by Johan Cruijff known for its attacking “total football” that awed audiences worldwide.
A perennial soccer powerhouse that does exceedingly well in international tournaments, the Germans are again widely expected to go deep, and it’s a decent bet that they’ll reach all the way to the final match. Having finished tantalizingly close in the last three tournaments (second, third and third, respectively) and led by wunderkind coach Joachim Löw, who returns for a second go-round at the helm, this team, full of seasoned vets complemented by a crop of young geniuses, can be expected to have its strudel and eat it too.
Often tipped to win the tournament, the Germans have struggled recently to make the very last push necessary to fully realize World Cup glory. Riding too high on expectations this time, the Germans finish second in one of the tournament’s two groups of death — which includes the U.S., Ghana and Portugal — and face one of Europe’s hottest teams in Belgium, which has the most talented squad in the country’s history, faces a relatively easy group and ends up upsetting Germany before it’s gotten a chance to do much of anything.
Did you know?
German soccer teams and fans have often been at the losing end of pub nationalism focused on the World War II–era crimes of the Nazis. Just ask any English fan to opine about the German soccer team, and you’re just as likely to hear an impromptu rendition of “10 German Bombers,” the decidedly un-PC song about the RAF shooting down attacking German planes during the Battle of Britain. But soccer’s relationship to nationalism is complex and works in many ways, even for the Germans, and was arguably a vital boost to a struggling German nation nine years after the end of World War II. In 1954, the country unexpectedly won its first World Cup in Switzerland in what some called the “Miracle in Bern.” For many postwar Germans, it unified a nation stung by both material defeat and the existential guilt attendant to Nazism’s crimes. “Germany became someone again. We gave ourselves the feeling of self-respect again,” said Franz Beckenbauer years later on the importance of the win.