WERE this World Cup taking place in Europe, it's quite possible that Germany would be clear favourites.


Outright odds: 11/2

To win group: 8/15

To qualify: 1/8


Full squad: Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Roman Weidenfeller (Borussia Dortmund), Ron-Robert Zieler (Hannover); Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich), Erik Durm (Borussia Dortmund), Kevin Grosskreutz (Borussia Dortmund), Benedikt Howedes (FC Schalke), Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund), Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich), Per Mertesacker (Arsenal), Julian Draxler (Schalke), Matthias Ginter (Freiburg), Mario Gotze (Bayern Munich), Christoph Kramer (Borussia Monchengladbach), Sami Khedira (Real Madrid), Toni Kroos (Bayern Munich), Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal), Lukas Podolski (Arsenal), Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund), Andre Schurrle (Chelsea), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich), Miroslav Klose (Lazio).

Manager: Joachim Low

World Cup record: Three-time winners (1954, 1974, 1990), four-times runners-up (most recently in 2002).

How they qualified (most recent first): Runaway winners of Europe's Group C, winning nine and drawing one of their 10 matches and scoring 36 times in the process.

v Sweden (away) 5-3 (HT 1-2) Ozil 45, Gotze 52, Schurrle 57, 66, 76

v Republic of Ireland (home) 3-0 (HT 1-0) Khedira 11, Schurrle 58, Ozil 90+1

v Faroe Islands (away) 3-0 (HT 1-0) Mertesacker 22, Ozil 74, Muller 84

v Austria (home) 3-0 (HT 1-0) Klose 33, Kroos 51, Muller 88

v Kazakhstan (home) 4-1 (HT 3-0) Reus 23, 90, Gotze 27, Gundogan 31

v Kazakhstan (away) 3-0 (HT 2-0) Muller 20, 73, Gotze 22

v Sweden (home) 4-4 (HT 3-0) Klose 8, 15, Mertesacker 39, Ozil 55

v Republic of Ireland (away) 6-1 (HT 2-0) Reus 32, 40, Ozil 55, Klose 58, Kroos 61, 83

v Austria (away) 2-1 (HT 1-0) Reus 44, Ozil 52

v Faroe Islands (home) 3-0 (HT 1-0) Gotze 28, Ozil 54, 72

Goalscorers: Mesut Ozil's tally of eight goals was both the highest of any German player, and the highest in the group ahead of the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic with six. Marco Reus managed five, Mario Gotze and Thomas Muller four, while defender Per Mertesacker demonstrated a threat of his own with two.

Half-time/full-time: Strong trends here, as for eight of their nine wins Germany were in front at the break. They also led at the interval in a remarkable 4-4 draw with Sweden, in which they surrendered a four-goal advantage at home. It was in the reverse where Germany didn't lead at half-time, eventually coming from 2-1 down to win 5-3.

Clean sheets: Germany kept five clean sheets, but they conceded seven goals in two games against their closest rivals in this group, Sweden.

Win to nil: Whenever Germany did keep a clean sheet, they won. Therefore they managed five wins to nil in 10 games.

Cards: Germany picked up a total of 16 cards in their 10 qualifiers, with 19 coming from their opponents to provide an average of 3.5 per game. Low's side did not pick up a single red card and in half their games were either booking-free or received just one yellow.

Other competitive internationals: None in the qualification period. Germany made the semis at Euro 2012 though before losing to Italy.

Build-up (most recent first): An indication of how seriously Germany have taken friendlies can perhaps be seen in their five since qualifying for the World Cup. Having averaged over 3.5 goals per game in reaching Brazil, they've managed just five in five subsequent friendlies as their attacking fluidity is negated by experimentation. This also reflects the fact they've played strong opponents in Italy, England and Chile.

v Cameroon (home) 2-2 (HT 0-0) Muller 66, Schurrle 71

v Poland (home) 0-0 (HT 0-0)

v Chile (home) 1-0 (HT 1-0) Gotze 16

v England (away) 1-0 (HT 1-0) Mertesacker 39

v Italy (away) 1-1 (HT 1-1) Hummels 8


Team verdict: Were this World Cup taking place in Europe, it's quite possible that Germany would be clear favourites.

That may seem like a strong statement, but Low's team have usurped Spain in the pecking order as they bid to put their disappointment at Euro 2012 behind them. Two years ago, this young, vibrant side got treated in the fashion Germany used to treat others, as Italy taught them a thing or two about winning football matches en route to the final.

Even then, there was the underlying feeling that the European Championships - eminently winnable though they appeared to be - had come a couple of years too soon for this extremely talented crop of players.

Now, with the likes of Mesut Ozil and Mats Hummels having turned 25, Marco Reus and Thomas Muller just a year behind and Mario Gotze having taken the next step in his career, everything bar the perceived advantage for the South Americans looks in favour of Germany.

I'd question how much of a hindrance it'll be playing in Brazil and don't think it'll be used as an excuse. The one concern would be whether this Germany side - one which blew a 4-0 lead against Sweden in qualifying - quite has the match craft to go all the way.

It's something we'll find out only in the playing of the matches. Have Germany matured enough in two years to truly overtake Spain and even Italy? Will their players - many of whom have had exhausting seasons - step up and deal with the conditions to return Germany to football's top table?

One thing seems certain - it'll be exciting to find out as this bunch has within it some of the standout talents at the World Cup.