Germany's World Cup predictions
After four years of waiting, the time has come. Another World Cup is here, and our bloggers across all 32 competing countries have each predicted the fate that awaits their team. The country's Outlook gives a general view of its situation ahead of the tournament, while Pitfalls takes a look at any potential problems. Each blogger will also predict the top scorer and breakout star and suggest how far that nation can go.
So many questions left to answer. Will Sami Khedira, Manuel Neuer, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm be 100 percent fit? Can Joachim Loew's XI overcome the shock of Marco Reus' late injury? Have they really formed a team spirit?
The perception of the World Cup preparations in Germany, especially the way the squad has been turned into a marketing machine, could not have been much worse. However, the final test against Armenia, a 6-1 win, was proof that the team has worked on a couple of things, reintroducing the 4-3-3 formation with three floating attackers in front and a lot of possession.
All 32 team previews and predictions
Brazil | Cameroon | Croatia | Mexico
Australia | Netherlands | Chile | Spain
Colombia | Greece | Ivory Coast | Japan
Costa Rica | England | Italy | Uruguay
Ecuador | France | Honduras | Switzerland
Argentina | Bosnia | Iran | Nigeria
Germany | Ghana | Portugal | USA
Algeria | Belgium | Russia | South Korea
Besides all the injuries, the German defence still is far from solid. The collective defensive work, which has been a problem for Die Nationalmannschaft for many years, still needs improvement. The full-back positions are currently taken by those more used to playing in the centre (Benedikt Hoewedes on the left, Jerome Boateng on the right). The transition play when losing balls is a weak spot and allows for quick counterattacks. The centre-back pairing of Per Mertesacker and Mats Hummels will need cover from further up the field, while the makeshift full-backs have yet to be tested against the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Ghana's Kwadwo Asamoah.
A team that has only one "classic forward" -- veteran Miroslav Klose, who seems set for a super sub role -- has to rely on midfielders. Thomas Mueller, a big-game player, will be the one providing essential goals for Loew. His ability to score with every part of his body, his unusual movements and his determination in front of the goal make the 2010 Golden Boot winner at the South Africa World Cup the biggest threat for opposing goalkeepers. The Bayern Munich man, however, has scored only 17 goals in 49 games for Germany and will need to improve his goal rate again.
It's hard to single out a player from a star-studded team like Germany. Still, Chelsea forward Andre Schuerrle could be the surprise of the tournament for Germany. Dubbed a "one-trick pony" during his time at Bayer Leverkusen, the switch to Stamford Bridge has worked wonders for the 23-year-old. He has become more physical and more confident. Schuerrle got his name on the score sheet against Cameroon and Armenia and, quite unusually in the German team, was played on the right wing, where he impressed.
Despite all the pre-tournament issues, Germany will make the semifinal stage of the World Cup again but will fail to make the final for the third time in a row. The Brazil tournament, away from a German media landscape, which has put more pressure on the Loew XI than ever before, could come as a big relief for Die Nationalmannschaft. The first match against Portugal on June 16 will be crucial for their progress in the tournament as they want to avoid having to get big results against Kevin-Prince Boateng's Ghana and Jurgen Klinsmann's United States. A favourable draw should allow Loew's side to advance to the semifinals -- if it can win Group G and thus most likely avoid meeting a South American side before the last four.