ROSTER

  • Coach: Joachim Low
  • Goalkeepers: Joerg Butt (Bayern Munich), Manuel Neuer (Schalke), Tim Wiese (Werder Bremen)
  • Defenders: Dennis Aogo (Hamburger SV), Holger Badstuber (Bayern Munich), Arne Friedrich (Hertha Berlin), Jerome Boateng (Hamburger SV), Marcell Jansen (Hamburger SV), Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich), Per Mertesacker (Werder Bremen), Serdar Tasci (Stuttgart)
  • Midfielders: Sami Khedira (Stuttgart), Toni Kroos (Bayer Leverkusen), Marko Marin (Werder Bremen), Mesut Oezil (Werder Bremen), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich), Piotr Trochowski (Hamburger SV).
  • Forwards: Cacau (Stuttgart), Mario Gomez (Bayern Munich), Stefan Kiessling (Bayer Leverkusen), Miroslav Klose (Bayern Munich), Thomas Mueller (Bayern Munich), Lukas Podolski (Cologne)

SCOUTING REPORT

  • Style of play: Coach Joachim Low has ditched the traditional 4-4-2 set-up that Germany was renowned for using, and instead fluctuates between several different formations, most notably 4-2-3-1. With two midfielders, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira, setting up shot in front of the defence, the game-plan is to stifle the opposing team, quickly win possession of the ball high up the field and out on the counter-attack. Mesut Ozil operates as the conductor of the attack, but he'll be urged to press forward in support of the lone striker, Miroslav Klose. Thomas Muller and Lukas Podolski give width to the attack, and will try to use their speed down the wings to exploit the defence or deliver diagonal balls to Klose.

1st round matches:

  • June 13 vs. Australia in Durban
  • June 18 vs. Serbia in Port Elizabeth
  • June 23 vs. Ghana in Johannesburg

Projected starting lineup (4-2-3-1): (GK) Hans-Jorg Butt — (D) Jerome Boateng, Per Mertesacker, Serdar Tasci, Philipp Lahm — (M) Bastian Schweinsteiger, Sami Khedira, Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Lukas Podolski — (F) Miroslav Klose

Strengths:

  • Youth and experience: Despite overlooking some veteran players, coach Joachim Low has put together a side that has a nice balance of youth (Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller and Mesut Ozil) and experience (Per Mertesacker, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Miroslav Klose).
  • Tournament management: More than anybody else, the German national team is the master of tournament management — pacing itself early, grinding out results and winning ugly if need be, and finding its peak late in the tournament when the stakes are high.
  • History: Germany is one of the most successful teams in World Cup history, winning the tournament three times and finishing runner-up on four occasions. This stellar track record of success gives the Germans a big boost and an extra shot of self-confidence.

Weaknesses:

  • Key Injuries: Germany is missing key players because of injury, including its captain and playmaker (Michael Ballack) and starting goalkeeper (Rene Adler). Midfielders Christian Trasch and Simon Rolfes, and defender Heiko Westermann are also missing from the squad, while Sami Khedira and Marcell Jansen are banged up.
  • The Low factor: Joachim Low has been second-guessed for most of his tenure as national team coach, but confidence in his abilities is at an all-time low. He didn't help his cause when he omitted Kevin Kuranyi (one of the best strikers in the German league) and midfielder Torsten Frings (a national team veteran) from his squad.
  • Tough Group: Challenging encounters against a talented Australia team and a Serbia side many are touting as a dark horse side await the Germans in their first two matches. It could be that Germany will be facing a must-win situation in their final contest, against Ghana, another tough opponent.

Players to watch:

  • Mesut Ozil — Quite simply, Ozil has a lot of talent. He can hit the ball from any distance at pace. He can weigh a pass perfectly at any distance. And he can run with the ball quickly and incisively.
  • Bastian Schweinsteiger — The Bayern Munich midfielder is a capable dribbler and passer of the ball that his coaches for club and country are such continuously changing his role from defender to attacker and back again.
  • Philipp Lahm — When he is in full flight with the ball at his feet, it is difficult to stop the defender from injecting himself into Germany's attack. His explosive pace, deceptive strength and impressive shooting skills belie his small stature, but he doesn't flout his defensive duties and can track back quickly to clean up messes.

Key injuries/squad omissions: Germany has been hit hard by injury and tragedy. Robert Enke, who likely would have served as second- or third-string goalkeeper in South Africa, committed suicide last November when he threw himself in front of a train. He was 32. The other big blow for the Germans came in May when captain Michael Ballack was injured while playing for Chelsea. The German midfielder tore ligaments in his right ankle, ruling him out of the World Cup. Starting goalkeeper Rene Adler will also not make the trip to South Africa after undergoing surgery on a broken rib. Midfielder Simon Rolfes (right knee) and Christian Trasch (ankle sprain), and defender Heiko Westermann are also missing from the squad. Defender Andreas Beck was cut from the preliminary squad. Fitness could be an issue for midfielders Sami Khedira and Marcell Jansen, who suffered recent injuries. Coach Joachim Loew decided against taking striker Kevin Kuranyi, who was the second-highest scoring German player in the Bundesliga this season with 18 goals. Kuranyi was kicked off the national team in October 2008 for disciplinary reasons, but Loew said that had no bearing on his decision. Also overlooked were midfielders Thomas Hitzlsperger and Torsten Frings.

Prognosis: Second round. History suggests you never discount Germany at the World Cup because they always find a way to win when the odds are against them. Not this time, though. The Germans are hurting — both physically and mentally. This is not the most inspiring German national team, and it's very hard to see how they will match their semifinal finish from four years ago on home soil.

ROAD TO SOUTH AFRICA

  • Current FIFA ranking: #6
  • Qualification route: Germany finished in first place (26 points) in Europe's Group 4 ahead of Russia (22 points).
  • Key to qualification: Efficiency. Yes, it's stereotypical to call the Germans efficient, but there's no better way to describe how they went out about their business, racking up victory after victory in the qualifiers en route to clinching a World Cup spot.
  • Crucial result: A clutch 1-0 win over Russia (Oct. 10, 2009 in Moscow) allowed the Germans to clinch first place with one game to spare.
  • Qualifying record: 10 games played, 8 wins, 2 draws, 0 losses
  • Goals for: 26
  • Goals against: 5
  • Top goal-scorer in qualifying: Miroslav Klose (7)

Qualifying results: (home team listed first)

  • Sept. 6, 2008 — Liechtenstein 0, Germany 6
  • Sept. 10, 2008 — Finland 3, Germany 3
  • Oct. 11, 2008 — Germany 2, Russia 1
  • Oct. 15, 2008 — Germany 1, Wales 0
  • March 28, 2009 — Germany 4, Liechtenstein 0
  • April 1, 2009 — Wales 0, Germany 2
  • Aug. 12, 2009 — Azerbaijan 0, Germany 2
  • Sept. 9, 2009 — Germany 4, Azerbaijan 0
  • Oct. 10, 2009 — Russia 0, Germany 1
  • Oct. 14, 2009 — Germany 1, Finland 1

GERMANY AT THE WORLD CUP

  • Number of World Cup appearances: 16
  • All-time record: 92 games played, 55 wins, 19 draws, 18 losses
  • Goals for: 190
  • Goals against: 112
  • Biggest victory: 8-0 vs. Saudi Arabia in 2002
  • Biggest defeat: 8-3 vs. Hungary in 1954
  • Overall top scorer: Gerd Muller (14 goals)
  • Most appearances: Lothar Matthaus (25 matches)
  • Hosted the World Cup: 1974 and 2006

World Cup track record (1954 to 1990 — competed as West Germany)

  • 1930 — Did not enter
  • 1934 — Semifinals (3rd place)
  • 1938 — First round
  • 1950 — Did not enter
  • 1954 — CHAMPIONS
  • 1958 — Semifinals (4th place)
  • 1962 — Quarter-finals
  • 1966 — Runners-up
  • 1970 — Semifinals (3rd place)
  • 1974 — CHAMPIONS
  • 1978 — Second round
  • 1982 — Runners-up
  • 1986 — Runners-up
  • 1990 — CHAMPIONS
  • 1994 — Quarter-finals
  • 1998 — Quarter-finals
  • 2002 — Runners-up
  • 2006 — Semifinals (3rd place)

TEAM HISTORY

  • FIFA member since: 1904
  • Team nickname: Die Nationalelf, Nationalmannschaft
  • All-time caps leader: Lothar Matthaus (150)
  • All-time leading scorer: Gerd Muller (68 goals)

Notable Achievements

  • European Champions: 1972, 1980, 1996
  • Under-20 World Champions: 1981
  • Under-21 European Champions: 2009
  • Under-19 European Champions: 1981, 2008
  • Under-17 European Champions: 1984, 1992, 2009
  • Olympic Bronze Medal: 1988

Legendary players

  • Franz Beckenbauer: Nicknamed "The Kaiser," Beckenbauer earned 103 caps and captained West Germany to the 1974 World Cup on home soil. Beckenbauer revolutionized the position of the attacking sweeper (known as the libero) and is considered one of soccer's greatest players of all time.
  • Gerd Muller: Muller scored 14 goals for West Germany in two World Cups (1970 and 1974), and is the second all-time leading scorer in the history of the competition. Nicknamed "Der Bomber," Muller earned 62 caps and scored a record 68 goals for West Germany from 1966-74, still one of the most amazing strike records in international competition.