Germany at risk of reliving Italy's 2010 World Cup nightmare

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Ask any Italian football fan about the 2010 World Cup held in South Africa four years ago and they might either burst into tears or change the subject by telling you how they are now destined to win their fifth international title.

Although a minority of Italian fans are penning down the 13th July in their diary's as the day when their country will participate in their sixth World Cup final, the majority of followers are finding it hard to banish the demons of 24th June 2010.

To us the 24th June is nothing more than just another summer's day placed in the recycling bin of our subconscious memory, however, the same date has become something of a national holiday in Italy for all the wrong reasons.

On that eventful day in 2010, the reigning world champions were knocked out in the group stage of the competition for the first time since 1966, after accumulating a mere two points out of a possible nine.

The 24th June has now become a day when Italian fans wipe tears  with a warm piece of focaccia, whilst criticizing the immediate future of the Azzurri.

As a Germany fan whilst seemingly basking in the memory of Italy's misfortunes four years ago, a part of me feels that I could be replicating that lone Azzurri fan who was pictured on national television, with the tears rolling down his cheek in a bar in Rome following their defeat to Slovakia.

It hasn't been easy being born into a family of staunch Germany supporters during a period when the best thing to celebrate was seeing your team being torn apart by Brazil in the 2002 World Cup final.

Each World Cup I am simultaneously reminded firstly by my grandfather about the "Wunder von Bern", where Germany against all the odds were able to beat Ferenc Puskas' Hungary side to claim their first international title.

I then have to endure my uncle telling me about the 1990 World Cup final in which Germany defeated Argentina in Rome, a game which arguably began the country's re-unification party in earnest.

Although I am continuously reminded ahead of each World Cup by my peers that Germany are the most likely team to win the holy grail of international football, my optimism is normally extinguished at the worst possible stage, the semi-finals.

Instead of being referred to as the "National Eleven" a more suitable name for Joachim Low's team seems to be on the tip of almost every single football fan the world over, "The Almost Team."

In reality if you would look at Germany’s involvement in both the World Cup and European Championships since the mid 1990’s this name almost seems to flatter Low’s side.

Since defeating Argentina in the 1990 World Cup Germany have gone on to reach three semi-finals and two finals in both the World Cup and European championships.

Par their victory over the Czech Republic in 1996, Germany have often slipped at the most crucial and agonizing stage, in the form of either the last four or the last two.

Since 2006, the year were Germany not only held the World Cup but also re-emerged as an international power in the terms of football, Low’s side have to live with the fact that they are expected to prove their worth and end their 18 year draught without any silverware.

In reality there has never been more pressure both within Germany and the world over for the “National Eleven” to come home to win their fourth international title in Rio de Janeiro on 13th July.

Low is arguably in the best and worst position that he has been since taking over the reins from Jurgen Klinsmann in 2006.

He has seen his side mature and develop into one of the best international powers, following years of careful preparation.

Germany ooze talent, whether this is in the form of their highly industrial midfield or their sleek attack which has so often come up trumps on the international stage.

Low has also named a very young squad with an average age of just 26.1, so in reality there is surely no chance of Germany replicating the misfortunes of Italy four years earlier right?

Unfortunately it is not as simple as that and there are many reasons why Germany’s elimination from the first round should not come as a surprise to many.

Going back to the point about pressure, Germany have a long history of basking in difficult moments, but will this be too much for Low’s side to handle?

Anything other than winning the World Cup will be seen as a failure and a missed opportunity within Germany, and it is obvious that they will not achieve this.

In relation to Italy four years earlier they entered the tournament with the goal of defending their title with a side blended with experience and youth.

Just like Italy, who were drawn against the likes of Paraguay, Slovakia and New Zealand, the 2014 World Cup draw last December was rather kind on Germany.

Germany have not lost to Portugal since 2000, and they have never lost to Ghana in any format.

However, Germany have often struggled against the USA and almost seem to take the Yankee’s for granted when playing them.

Portugal are due a win against Germany, and if the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and William Carvalho are on form, Low’s side considering their flakey defence could be up against it.

The same goes for the game against Ghana which could quite possibly mirror Italy’s second group game of the 2010 tournament against minnows, New Zealand.

Italy drew that game 1-1 and they were left knowing that a defeat against Slovakia would send them home, becoming the second side after France to be knocked out of the competition as the reining holders.

Indeed, Marcello Lippi’s side crashed out of the tournament, and could it be the same for Germany when they come up against USA potentially needing three points to secure their passage through to the next round.

Klinsmann, coincidently the manager of the United States knows fully well how porous Germany’s back four can be at times, and it is unclear how the unsteady legs of Per Mertesacker and the clumsy attitude of Jerome Boateng will fair under the Recife sun.

The former 1990 World Cup winner has also compiled a team of highly energetic and passionate players who know how to beat the big boys and cause a huge upset, even if this is a 4-3 friendly victory over, you guessed it, Germany.

At this moment in time it is also unclear how much Germany will miss midfielder Marco Reus after he was ruled out of the tournament with a ankle injury picked up in his country’s friendly 6-1 win against Armenia last week.

His athleticism and dynamic play will be the missing picture in the jigsaw puzzle, especially if Low’s side find themselves either needing to chance a game or securing an early advantage through dominative and attacking football.

Questions have also been raised regarding the fitness and mental state of Mesut Ozil who has been jeered in his last three international appearances for Germany due to his poor form throughout 2013, both for country and club.

Just like Andrea Pirlo, who was injured for two out of the three games in which Italy participated in at the 2010 World Cup, if Ozil fails to get out of his negative mind set in time he could bring the whole Germany team down with him.

Germany are still unfortunately too over reliant on striker Miroslav Klose to score the goals needed to progress into the later rounds.

Although he is a striker of the highest caliber on the international stage, at the grand age of 36 it is unlikely that he will score four or five goals let alone one during his time in Brazil.

If I remember correctly, Italy entered the tournament in South Africa four years previously being too reliant on the goals of veteran striker Antonio Di Natale to propel Italy through the group and knockout rounds.

Coincidently he managed to only score one goal in three games and Italy were on the first place back to Rome faster than you could say “arrivederci.”

As a proud German and a staunch follower of the national team, I do have fears over the Eagles prospect’s at the World Cup, and I believe that a toxic cocktail of pressure and a lack of fitness could result in anarchy.

Perhaps at this stage it is also best not to mention that the Bayern Munich trio of Manuel Neuer, Phillip Lahm and Bastain Schweinsteiger are all still carrying niggles, and are reportedly nowhere near the desired fitness to shine on the international stage.

These three players are the heart of Low’s team and plans, and if they are not playing well then the whole team will most definitely under perform.

Just like Italy, who entered the tournament in South Africa with a point to prove over their age, are Germany about to follow a similar path whilst trying to convince the whole world that they are indeed the best international side bar one.

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