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RUSSIA 2018: GERMANY’S TROPHY TO LOSE

The 2018 FIFA World Cup comes up in 7 months and the usual suspects like Spain, Brazil, France, Portugal, Japan, Mexico, England, Argentina and the Super Eagles of Nigeria have all booked their places for the biggest football festival going down in Russia.

Defending champions Germany will definitely be part of the competition and will be looking to retain title they lifted last time out in 2014 when the tournament was hosted by South American giants Brazil. Although I do not have a crystal ball to say which team will be triumphant next year, I strongly feel the Germans can stake their claim and go all the way to be crowned once again world champions out there in cold Eastern Europe.

This being so because Germany have been one of the most consistent sides in the competition since the 1990 edition in Italy; being among the last eight teams and have been among the top four teams since Korea Republic and Japan jointly hosted the world in 2002.

Although known as West Germany in Italia 90, the Germans were one – nil winners against an Argentine team that had a former World Cup winner and football great Diego Amando Maradona as part of their squad. An 85th minute penalty converted by left wingback Andreas Brehme broke down Argentina to see the Franz Beckenbauer tutored side crowned champions of the world.

Four years later, all roads led to the United States of America and Germany came out on the top of their game and made it as far as the quarter-finals but failed to progress further after they were defeated by Bulgaria 2-1 who came from a goal behind thanks to goals from HristoStoichkov and YordanLetchkov respectively after LotharMatthaus had put the Germans in front.

In 1998, it was the turn of France to welcome the world as the German team, led by former Nigerian coach Berti Vogts was made up of the crop of players that won the 1996 European Championship in England. Players like Jurgen Klinsmann, Thomas Hassler, Oliver Bierhoff were expected by all to shine but in the end they could only achieve a quarter-final berth and were eventually eliminated by Croatia in a one sided game that ended 3 – nil by the Davor Suker led attack.

In the 2002 edition of the World Cup cohosted by Korea and Japan, Rudi Voeller was given charge of the team that had Oliver Kahn, Michael Ballack, MiroslavKlose and Oliver Neuville. The team was excellent and it was clear to see that the side was well on their way to clinch the trophy after wonderful performances from the group stages to their semi-final game. But yet again this was not going to be their year as they were beaten by Brazil with Ronaldo Nazario netting a brace to hurt the Germans.

2006 was another year and this time Germany had the home support to cheer them on as they were the host of the tournament. Former player Klinsmann led the team, who were once a formidable force to reckon with and were once again tagged heavy favorites to come out as champions. But once again Mother Luck refused to shine on Die Mannschaft as they were defeated in their semi-final match against Italy that later went on to lift the trophy in the final match against France; another disappointing year to add to their history of try and fail.

Joachim Low was the man assigned to lead the team in the2010 edition hosted by South Africa; the first African nation to host a World Cup tournament. Germany did not fail to deliver once again in the group stages and later went on to defeat England in the Round of 16 and eliminated Argentina in their quarter-final game. And once again, the script of defeat was written as they lost to the eventual winners of that year’s tournament; Spain.

The German Football Association still kept faith with Low as he was once again saddled with the responsibility to manage the team when the tournament was hosted by Brazil in 2014. The team again progressed from and advanced to the semi-finals where they humiliated the host 7 goals to 1 to book a place in the final where they squared up against Argentina: who they were facing again after their previous encounters in 2006 and 2010. The final game against La Albiceleste at the Maracana stadium was a highly contested game that produced no winner in 90 minutes and had to be decided in extra time.  Thanks to a solitary goal by the Borussia Dortmund player, Mario Gotze in the 113th minute marking the first time teams from the same continent would win three consecutive World Cups (2006: Italy, 2010: Spain and 2014: Germany).

Germany did not fail to deliver also at the FIFA Confederations Cup hosted by Russia this year in June as a new look side that had so many absentees who were in Brazil and crowned champions watched the team on television as they went on to defeat current Copa America champions Chile; thanks to Lars Stindl’s lone strike in the final.

Although no team that won the Confederations Cup has gone on to win the World Cup the following year, Germany has made a bold statement by qualifying for the FIFA World Cup without dropping a single in the qualification stage. They are confident they can compete for the trophy and go on to retain it with an array of stars that the country possesses given the fact that they can boast of a formidable B team that shocked the world by clinching FIFA’s pre show tournament to the big one next and not rely heavily on the big boys from the class of 2014.

Without a doubt, Joachim Low will definitely have a headache when choosing the final squad which will represent the nation in Russia as people will expect a mix of the big boys and the lads who performed excellently well at the Confederations Cup.

A headache it will be but a very good headache to have because with current set of players at Low’s disposal, the Germans are in top shape and perfectly placed to retain the World Cup; and the only team that can stop them is Germany. It is indeed their trophy to lose.

– Chinedu Victor.

vickychi24@gmail.com

vickychi24@yahoo.com

 

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