World Champions Germany have won the European Championships three times. They were first successful in 1972 and added further victories in 1980 and 1996. They were also runners-up in 1976, 1992 and 2008. In 2012 they were beaten 2-1 by Italy in the semi-final with Mario Balotelli scoring twice before Mesut Ozil’s scored a consolation penalty in injury-time.
World Cup 2014
Germany were expected to be a strong contender at the World Cup finals in Brazil but nobody had anticipated their 7-1 demolition of the host nation in the semi-finals.
They began the competition with a similarly impressive display, beating Portugal 4-0. Their opponents were thought to be dangerous rivals but they never recovered from that heavy defeat and were eliminated at the group stage. Germany were less impressive in drawing 2-2 with Ghana and scraping a 1-0 win over USA, although qualification was never in doubt.
They required extra-time to get past a determined Algeria in the round of 16 and beat France 1-0 in a disappointing quarter-final in Rio de Janeiro. The footballing world then watched in amazement as Germany proceeded to take the hosts and pre-tournament favourites apart in the semi-final.
Five goals in the opening half-hour ended the game as a contest with two second half goals from Andre Schurrle piling on the misery for Brazil. Germany were inevitably strong favourites against Argentina in the final but the game followed a similar pattern to the earlier clash with France. Chances were few and far between with Gotze’s extra-time strike deciding the match.
Euro 2016 Qualification
Germany were drawn in Group D and were clear favourites to qualify. Poland were seen as their most significant opponents ahead of Scotland and the Republic of Ireland. Georgia and Gibraltar, the latter making their first appearance in the tournament, completed the group.
Two goals from World Cup Silver Boot winner Thomas Muller saved the Germans blushes in their opening fixture as they beat Scotland 2-1. They then suffered a shock defeat in Poland, failing to take any of their chances while the Poles hit them twice on the counter-attack for a famous victory. Coach Joachim Low admitted that his side were struggling to deal with becoming a prized scalp after their success in Brazil.
Germany then suffered a further set-back when the Republic of Ireland scored an injury-time equaliser in a 1-1 draw at Veltins Arena in October. The result meant that it was the worst ever start to a qualifying competition for Germany and raised serious questions about their position as favourites for Euro 2016.
It was never going to be easy to follow the dizzy heights of their World Cup triumph. Many reasons were put forward for their faltering start including fatigue and the retirement from International football of Captain Philipp Lahm.
Germany Euro 2016 Squad
Lahm’s influence as skipper may have been underestimated but his replacement Bastian Schweinsteiger was also missing for the early qualifying matches through injury. The Bayern Munich midfielder suffered a knee injury in August 2014 and his return to the team is thought to be key for their Euro 2016 campaign.
Germany’s success in the World Cup came largely through their ability to counter-attack at speed. Chelsea’s Andre Schurrle has been used sparingly in the past, often introduced to run at tired defences in the second period. Thomas Muller has a fantastic goal scoring record for his country and seems to reserve his best for the big occasions. The attacking force also consists of Toni Kroos and Mario Gotze. Mesut Ozil has yet to convince everyone at Arsenal that he was worth the club record transfer fee and he needs to recapture his best form for both club and country.
Although Germany are World champions, they are also a team still under-going something of a rebuilding process. Matthias Ginter, Erik Durm and Julian Draxler were part of the World Cup squad but are not yet automatic first-team choices. Also coming through the ranks are Sebastian Rudy, Karim Bellarabi and Antonio Rudiger. With games against group minnows Gibraltar and Georgia still to come, Germany remain firm favourites to win the group and go to Euro 2016 with a great chance of following up their World Cup success.