How many times have they won it before?
THREE TIMES — in 1954, 1974 and 1990, while they have also been runners-up on four occasions (1966, 1982, 1986, 2002.)
Predicted starting lineup v Brazil
(4-3-3) Neuer; Lahm, Boateng, Hummels, Höwedes; Schweinsteiger, Khedira, Kroos; Özil, Müller, Klose.
It’s Germany’s fourth consecutive World Cup semi-final.
What are their strengths?
Their strength in depth is considerable in many areas, particularly midfield. It’s hard to imagine players such as André Schürrle and Mario Götze struggling to get into any of the other three teams left in the competition.
Of the sides remaining in Brazil, they are also easily the most technically accomplished — they bossed possession in the first half against France and even looked relatively comfortable in the second period when their opponents pushed for an equaliser. They would expect to see similarly long spells of possession against a Brazilian midfield that is undoubtedly at its best without the ball.
There were also question marks over their defence coming into the tournament, but Mats Hummels in particular has alleviated these doubts, while the similarly solid Jerome Boateng is expected to be retained alongside him, after he was preferred to Per Mertesacker for the France game.
And as impressive as their back four is, they occasionally have to rely on Manuel Neuer to get them out of trouble. The Bayern Munich goalkeeper is regarded by many as the best in the world in his position, and his vital sweeping up of balls in behind the pace-deprived back four, which was particularly conspicuous against Algeria, is one of the key reasons why the Germans have the best defensive record in the tournament.
What are their weaknesses?
(Philipp Lahm began the tournament as a defensive midfielder before reverting to full-back)
While they have several talented midfielders, Joachim Löw has struggled to find the perfect balance between them for a while now. He seems to have given up on trying Philipp Lahm in the defensive midfield role, shifting him to full-back against France and going with old reliables Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira, as well as the more creative Toni Kroos, in the quarter-final with France.
Yet compared with the somewhat defensively inept French midfield, they face a far different proposition in Brazil, with the energetic and hard-working likes of Fernandinho and Paulinho likely to put their German counterparts under far more pressure than Paul Pogba or Blaise Matuidi ever did.
Lahm aside, Germany also aren’t overloaded with talented full-backs — Benedikt Höwedes has played left-back for much of the tournament, and while he hasn’t been a disaster by any means, he all too often looks like what he essentially is — a centre-back being played out of position.
Up front, they have far more options, though perhaps apart from Thomas Müller, none have looked completely convincing so far. Miroslav Klose, Mario Götze, Mesut Özil and André Schürrle have all been sporadically impressive without ever looking influential enough to give the impression that they’ve nailed down a place in the side.
Who is their star man?
(Thomas Müller has been one of Germany’s most impressive players)
One of the strengths of Germany is that they are not overly reliant on any particular individual as, for example, Argentina are with Messi. Their excellent defensive record means that both Mats Hummels and Manuel Neuer could stake a claim to be their most important individual star. However, Thomas Müller arguably edges them both out. With four goals and two assists in his five appearances so far, the 24-year-old attacker has been at the heart of much of what has been good about Germany in an attacking sense. Should he maintain this impressive form for the remainder of the tournament, the Bayern Munich star would be a decent outside bet for the Golden Ball award.
Winners: Home advantage or no home advantage, Germany should be good enough to beat Brazil assuming they reach anywhere near their best form and can cope with their opponents’ intensive midfield pressing, in addition to finding a way past the Brazilians’ normally solid defence. They similarly would hardly fear facing either the Netherlands or Argentina in the final, with the Germans likely to fancy their chances at exposing these teams’ well-documented weaknesses.
Look out for our upcoming respective in-depth looks at the other semi-finalists.