There is only one country that has not missed the playoff round in every World Cup since 1954. That county is Germany, which for quite some time was West Germany.
When it comes to counting on a team not to choke under pressure, one can always count on Germany. If the Germans lose, they generally lose to superior teams of which there are few. The Germans will head to South Africa once again as one of the toughest teams to beat. But chances are they will not be listed as favorites by too many prognosticators.
Germany has better talent in 2010 than it had in 2002 when it went all the way to the final. This is a young side that should return a strong core again in four years. Joachim Low took over the national side from Jurgen Klinsmann after Germany 2006 and promptly led the side to the Euro 2008 final, losing 1-0 to Spain. Schalkeís Manuel Neuer has been given the starting spot in goal. The 24-year-old will be backed up by Werder Bremenís Tim Wiese and Bayern Munichís Hans-Jorg Butt.
The German defense is led by captain Philipp Lahm, who can play on either wing side. Per Mertesacker of Werder Bremen is tough in the middle and Arne Friedrich is another quality veteran. Holger Badstuber and Jerome Boateng are future stars.
While some may view the loss of former captain Michael Ballack to injury as a crushing blow, it may actually turn out to be a good thing. The Germans have a very young midfield, led by Bastian Schweinsteiger who now has the ability to play a more commanding role. Youngsters Toni Kroos, Mark Marin and Mesut Osil are all young stars that could explode in South Africa.Germanyís attack is strong and deeper than it has been in recent World Cups.
There will be a lot of fighting for playing time. Veteran Miroslav Klose enters his third World Cup with 10 career goals in the tournament. If he can duplicate what he did in the past two tournaments when he scored five each, he will be tied for the all-time World Cup scoring title with Brazilís Ronaldo. Ronaldo will not be in South Africa.
Lukas Podolski is a returner and a solid option from the left side. Bayern Munich teammate Mario Gomez may also see significant playing time. And then there is young Thomas Muller, who at 20, is Germanyís best young forward in years.
Germany should feel good about its position. Group D with Serbia, Ghana and Australia will not be easy. But once the Germans get through the group stage, they cannot face five-time champion Brazil until the final and would not have to face Spain or defending champion Italy until the semifinals.
If anyone is looking for an underdog pick that is not ridiculous, Germany is your team. Expect the Germans to go far in South Africa.