German guns have a big goal this time

Loew's men look to end prolonged title drought

German guns have a big goal this time

After coming close in big tournaments in recent years, Germany are now under pressure to finally deliver at the World Cup and end a long title drought.

While holders Spain and hosts Brazil start as the pre-tournament favourites, Germany can never be discounted in a major competition and are driven by an ambition to be the first non-South American team to clinch the trophy on the continent.

Drawn with Ghana, who they beat in the group stage four years ago, United States led by former Germany coach Juergen Klinsmann and Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal, the Germans are expected to finish in the top two with few problems.

As success-starved German fans pile pressure on the team, coach Joachim Loew has said only those players at the peak of their game will make it to the playing eleven.

"I expect everyone to lead a fully professional life. We have a big target," he said. "I need adaptable players. I need players who are physically fit and can handle the conditions in Brazil. Heat, long travel times, time difference and different kick-off times."

Loew has created one of the most exciting teams to watch since taking over in 2006 with fast-paced passing and an attacking game capable of shattering any defence in a split second. He has led them to two semifinals and one final in his three tournaments in charge since 2006.

Their midfield is among the best in the world, oozing talent with Mesut Ozil, Thomas Mueller, Marco Reus, Mario Goetze, Andre Schuerrle and Toni Kroos to name a few.

With captain Philipp Lahm looking set for a permanent switch to a holding midfield position alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger, who is hitting top form after a long injury break, there is even more experience there.

However, there are doubts about fellow holding midfielder Sami Khedira, who suffered a ligament tear and made a return only late in the season. The absence of playmaker Ilkay Guendogan, nursing a back injury since August, could be another blow to Loew who has named veteran Miroslav Klose in his squad despite his age.

Klose, equal on 68 goals for his country alongside Gerd Mueller and set to pass that record soon, has returned from injury.

Loew has opted at times to play with Goetze in a lone striker role, emulating Spain, who often do not deploy an out-and-out forward but rather an offensive midfielder in that position, although the move has had limited success.

Loew's biggest concern, however, is the backline which has lost its stability.

Mats Hummels, a long way from top form after missing for several months, and Per Mertesacker have yet to impress as the central partnership. With left-back Marcel Schmelzer also out injured and Lahm leaving his right-back position, the Germany defence could prove their Achilles heel.

A 1-0 win over Chile in a friendly in March highlighted the challenges Germany will face against strong South American teams while a 2-2 draw against Cameroon last week showed the team had yet to shake off its rustiness.

The Chileans outran the Germans at home and were unlucky not to leave with a win. Their opponents left the field to jeers and whistles from their own demanding fans.
"Those who still carry problems or are not professional enough will have to accept the consequences," Loew warned after the game.

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