Key analysis: Can Germany be called a World Cup favourite?

Key analysis: Can Germany be called a World Cup favourite?
Will Jamal Musiala light up the World Cup for Germany?
Will Jamal Musiala light up the World Cup for Germany?
Is Germany one of the World Cup favourites? Led by captain Manuel Neuer (36) and a block of Bayern players, national coach Hansi Flick has plenty of players at his disposal. The DFB's demands are being called into question by a number of problems up front and at the back, so how far can they go in this tournament?

Germany always sees itself as a candidate to win the title. Between 2002 and 2014, the team has always reached at least the semi-finals, and in Brazil they crowned an incredibly successful decade as then prodigy Mario Gotze (30) scored the decisive goal in the final against Argentina with his knee.

The numbers "1954, 1974, 1990", are rehearsed over many years and gladly reworked into song lyrics by the Sportfreunde Stiller, finally got a new addition eight years ago.

Germany and the World Cup: it just seemed to fit. The German eagles were a tournament team, always performing reliably when it mattered most. The 2018 World Cup in Russia and the European Championship, which was postponed until 2021 because of Covid, shattered this.

After an opening defeat against Mexico, the team did not really pull itself together. The 2018 squad, then coached by world champion Jogi Low, was eliminated in the group stage. This was the first this had happened at their 19th tournament - they had always made it through the preliminary round before. At the European Championship, they lost 2-0 to England in the round of 16. 

The negative spiral can be stopped in Qatar. In Qatar, of all places. Hardly anywhere else is the World Cup in the desert as controversial as in the German fan scene. The discussion about the human rights situation dominates the public sphere.

Boycott banners are regularly seen in German stadiums and no football programme can avoid the subject.

A few weeks ago, Uli Hoeness called in to the 'Doppelpass' on Sport1. A programme that is considered an institution in Germany. The powerful ex-Bayern boss took a clear stand, claiming that only the World Cup would improve conditions in the sheikh state - a statement that would be easy to refute.


The side's old-fashioned approach was changed by Flick, who was considered a more modern coach. His debut in Liechtenstein in September 2021 was eagerly awaited. Would he play with a three-man or four-man backline? Which players will Flick rely on, how does he want to fix the problem areas in the defence and in the centre of attack?

The match ended with a lacklustre 2-0 victory. Tiny Liechtenstein presented Germany with real problems. The bright spot in a mixed match was Jamal Musiala (19).

Musiala is still a teenager, but has been one of Bayern's most important players this season. He is cranking up attack after attack, is tricky on the ball, has a good eye for his teammates and, crucially, he also knows where the goal is. 

He is also an important part of the Bayern block. The creativity in certain parts of the team is unique. The dynamic play of Serge Gnabry (27) and Leroy Sane (26) complements Kimmich's outstanding long balls as well as the strong presence of Leon Goretzka (27) perfectly.

Last but not least: Gotze is back! The story of the goal scorer in the 2014 final is well known. The supposed career step backwards, the move to PSV Eindhoven, proved to be spot on and now he will probably get a few minutes of action. He serves as a real talisman for the DFB team.

Although, the Bayern block with Goretzka, Kimmich or Man City's İlkay Gundogan (32) will probably be preferred to Gotze.

Nowhere else does the national coach have such a broad selection as in central midfield. The competition could drive the many star players to their peak in this tournament. 


Flick has to cope with a number of absences due to injury. First and foremost, Marco Reus (33). The nation's unluckiest player was already unable to play in Brazil with an ankle injury.

Particularly bitter for Flick, who tried to install the perhaps most talented German player of his generation as a central starting point in attack. Reus brought the necessary class to move the ball forward cleanly and quickly without much problem.

Timo Werner (26) also originally took on an important role. Flick tried to build up the former Chelsea player as a lone striker. Werner fitted well into the new system - he was good for combination play against tightly defending opponents - as well as for quick transitions.

The only thing that was still lacking was the chances. Which is why Lukas Nmecha (23), who is more of a classic centre-forward, often acted as a back-up. Shortly before the start of the tournament though, both strikers were seriously injured.

Neither Niclas Fullkrug (29) nor Youssoufa Moukoko (17), both in the World Cup squad, have played a game in the German senior team. Nevertheless, both are guaranteed a place on the plane to Qatar. Fullkrug played with Werder Bremen in 2. Bundesliga last year, but has been on great form in the top division, scoring 10 goals. 

Neither Fullkrug nor Moukoko have been able to gain much international experience so far. With this in mind, the centre of attack is considered a weak point, just like the position of the right back.

Since the former captain Phillip Lahm ended his career after the final in Rio de Janeiro, no player has been able to effectively fill the vacant position. Joshua Kimmich (27) is by no means outstanding as a tackler and is therefore better off in midfield.

Jonas Hofmann (30) held the position with conviction, but at Gladbach he acts exclusively as an offensive winger. Dortmund's Niklas Sule (27), a trained central defender, will probably take over the problematic position during the tournament.

Another option is Thilo Kehrer (26). He brings a certain basic speed, has decent skills on the ball and he is an above-average tackler. He can be used in all positions in the back four, a good complementary player for Flick's preferred style of play.

However, Flick is unlikely to have found a definitive solution yet. The controversial nomination of Lukas Klostermann (26) also proves this. The Leipzig defender has only played two competitive games this season and they were a long time ago. 

On August 7, he played the full 90 minutes against VfB Stuttgart. After that, an injury to his ligament led to a month-long absence. Even shortly before the World Cup, he was only on the bench for Leipzig. Nevertheless, he is going to Qatar as an option for the German manager.

Starting XI

Neuer - Kehrer, Sule, Rüdiger, Raum - Kimmich, Goretzka - Gnabry, Musiala, Sane - Havertz

Flick likes to use a hybrid system. In his 15 games as national coach so far, he has switched back and forth between a 4-2-3-1 and a 3-2-4-1 depending on the situation. The full-backs play an important role in the national coach's thinking.

In their own possession, one of the wing-backs was clearly oriented forward, while the other joined the centre-backs.

The player dropping to the back line was usually Kehrer. The former PSG player has been under contract with West Ham since August and although Kehrer is not a world-class player, Flick has taken a great liking to him and almost always put his trust in him.

In goal, captain Neuer is naturally set. Antonio Rudiger (29), who has a slightly injured hip, was still unable to force Austria's Alaba out of the starting XI at Real Madrid, but the centre back, who started out at VfB Stuttgart, still has great physical presence and has been delivering consistently good performances for several years in the national shirt as well as in club football.

Whether Nico Schlotterbeck (22) will be used - depends heavily on whether the coaching team sees Süle more in central defence or further out.

Up front, the use of Kai Havertz (23) as a false nine currently appears to be the safest option.

The possibility of Fullkrug or Moukoko turning into candidates for the starting XI is out of the question in the immediate future. At least against Japan, Havertz certainly has a good chance of playing. 

Hottest contest

Who will get the nod at left back is hard to say. Robin Gosens (28) was booted out, which the Inter player was not particularly happy about. Instead of him, no one has yet made a lasting impression. David Raum (24) had a fabulous season for Hoffenheim last year and he scored points with his running strength and pinpoint crosses.

After his transfer to RB Leipzig, however, he has not found his best form. Nevertheless, Flick almost always trusted him.

Freiburg captain Christian Gunter (29) also found his way into the World Cup squad - the club legend often acts with intelligence in both attacking and defensive spaces.

The defender can also impress with tournament experience. At the European Championship, he travelled with the national team - but did not make an appearance. As already mentioned above, Kehrer could also play the position in an emergency.


In 2024, one of the European Championship will take place in Germany for the first time since the 2006 summer fairytale. In view of this, Flick dispensed with the ageing world champion Mats Hummels (33) despite his strong form, preferring to take Armel Bella-Kotchap (20) from Southampton. 

From the outside, it is difficult to say what role the important home tournament will play for the DFB. What is certain, however, is that Germany will not be the favourites at the World Cup.

The team is still finding its feet, as the poor results in the Nations League prove. The only success against a top team was the 5-2 victory against Italy in June.

A win is a must for the opening match against Japan on November 23. If the Germans get off to a good start, unlike in Russia 2018, they could go into the difficult duel with challengers Spain (November 23) with momentum.

The last rival in Group E is Costa Rica. The round of 16 is a must for Germany with the semi-finals seem within reach. But a place in the final - or even a World Cup victory - would have to be considered a surprise.