Known for their dependability in penalty shootouts on the biggest of stages, you would think that German nerves of steel would not be troubled by the likes of Algeria.

However, as has been the case in numerous tournaments since West Germany lifted the World Cup in 1990, when Die Mannschaft reach the latter stages of a competition, they are not as comfortable as one would assume.

The fact that Germany has not won a World Cup in the 24 years since that triumph in Rome, with the plethora of talent available to various coaches in that time, is astounding.

Having been amongst the favourites almost every time they qualify for a summer tournament, more often than not the Germans have flattered to deceive, blowing away teams early-on, then faltering when it mattered most.

The 2006 World Cup would have been most painful, as the then hosts were beaten at the semifinal stage, despite looking seemingly unstoppable earlier in the competition.

In Porto Alegre, against the determined Africans, Europe’s most fancied nation still involved in Latin America laboured to a 2-1 victory after extra-time, needing 28 shots at goal to progress to the quarter-finals.

Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer was almost playing as a sweeper as Algeria threatened on several occasions, as Jogi Low’s men struggled at times with the pace of The Fennec Foxes on the counter attack.

As chances came and went, Germany looked more and more nervous on the ball, with the rehearsed free-kick routine descending into farce in extra-time symbolic of its struggles.

Heavy pressure

Expectation weighs heavy on the players’ minds, with their abilities the reason for such optimism back home.

They have an attacking midfield arsenal to rival any in this summer’s showpiece, so much so that there is no room for a recognized striker in the starting 11.

With such a myriad of options at his disposal, Low knows that as their competition gets tougher, they will need to be more clinical, and stay mentally strong simultaneously.

Low has been at the helm since 2006, and this tournament could well be his last stand, so it is more crucial than ever that his players play to their potential, and not labour past inferior opponents.

A unified German has been crying out for a first World Cup trophy to show for its superstar personnel, but if the players allow the pressure to affect them, then yet more disappointment could be on its way back across the Atlantic.


Pete Hall is U.K.-based soccer columnist, covering the World Cup in Brazil.