World Cup 2014: Germany national soccer team guide

A FAVORITE ONCE AGAIN: GERMANY TARGET TITLE

They haven’t won it all since 1990, and the German national team is feeling big-time pressure to take home a trophy. The expectations are especially high in 2014, and for good reason. A loaded roster and success at the club level, with the Bundesliga sending two teams to the most recent UEFA Champions League final, have the soccer-crazed country thinking big for Brazil.

GROUP G SCHEDULE

June 16: vs. Portugal, Salvador
June 21: vs. Ghana, Fortaleza
June 26: vs. USA, Recife

WHO GOT THEM THERE

Mesut Özil, M, Arsenal (pictured left): He’s the star among the stars, the central figure in the influx of young stars in German football and the piece that makes the side go. The lively playmaker and his lightening bolt for a left foot leads the team with 10 assists and is tied for second with five goals in 2013. And if his record transfer deal to Arsenal is any indication, Germany should be just fine.

Marco Reus, M, Borussia Dortmund: Considered the top German player in the Bundesliga, Dortmund’s young talent led the way for Germany with seven goals and was tied for second on the team with five assists. The young playmaker’s talents are not only good for club and country but inspire videos like this.

Mario Götze, M, Bayern Munich: The Cain to Reus’ Abel. Whatever his country’s Bundesliga fans may think of him, Götze completes the young attacking trio that has everyone raving about Germany’s possibilities of raising a trophy at the end of the World Cup. Five goals and five assists in 2013 show his versatility.

Manuel Neuer, GK, Bayern Munich: He’s not just one of the top goalkeepers in the world (10 goals alLöwed in 10 WCQ games), who sometimes wears a four-fingered glove, but he’s also caught the acting bug.

THE COACH

Joachim “Jogi” Löw (right) took over after serving as the top assistant under previous coach Jurgen Klinsmann. While Klinsmann was the master motivator, Löw was considered the tactical genius and has been credited with getting the most out of the next generation of young German talent and transforming the team’s style into an exciting, attacking variety while holding onto some trademark efficiency.

But now the pressure is on, and now Löw is expected to turn all those goals (36 in 10 WCQs) into hardware.

HOW THEY QUALIFIED

WCQ record: 9-0-1, 28 pts. / 36 GF, 10 GA (first place in Europe’s Group C)

Germany’s biggest stumbling block was a 4-4 draw in Berlin against Sweden, Group C’s second-place team, on Oct. 16 of last year. But nine wins, including a 5-3 revenge victory over Sweden on their home turf on Oct. 15, gave Germany the easy group victory by eight points.

WORLD CUP HISTORY

18th appearance

Germany are one of the most decorated international teams in the world, having won three World Cups (1954, 1974, 1990), finished runners-up four times and third place four times. The sting of Germany’s 1-0 loss to eventual Cup champions Spain in the 2010 semifinals still lingers; marking the first time since 1982 that the team with the highest goal differential (16 GF, 5 GA) in the tournament didn’t win it all.

MLS/USA CONNECTIONS

Of course, the biggest German connection to US soccer is current USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who coached Die Mannschaft from 2004-2006 and led them to a third-place finish in the 2006 World Cup. Klinsmann led the US national team to a 4-3 victory over his former side on June 2 this past summer in Washington, D.C., thanks to a second-half brace from striker Clint Dempsey … Current USMNT players Fabian Johnson, John Anthony Brooks, Terrence Boyd and Jermaine Jones were born in Germany, while Jones and Brooks both spent time with the German national team setup before changing over full-time to the United States … 18-year-old German-American attacker Julian Green was recently called up by Klinsmann to the USMNT’s November friendlies against Austria and Scotland, but he declined and instead opted to report to Germany’s U-19 side for friendlies against France and during the same window.