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World Cup Group F Preview: Nothing impossible for Germany

BEIJING China (Xinhua) -- German fans are always the happiest  as their national team has reached at least the semifinals of every major tournament since Joachim Loew took over in 2006.

This can surely boost the confidence of the Germans who are aiming to be the first World Cup winners in 56 years to defend the title.

“We can accomplish something historic - World Cup champions, Confederations Cup winners and then World Cup champions again, which has never happened,” Loew said recently at the team’s training camp in Italy, according to DPA.

The message is clear that the world’s No. 1 team is ready for the tournament which kicks off in ten days.

“The goal for us all must be to win the title,” said Loew.

Brazil, which lifted the Jules Rimet trophy in 1958 and 1962, were the last team to defend their title.

But in half a century, with the progress and popularity of the sport expanding around the globe, the gaps between the giant teams are narrowing, which makes the feat more and more difficult to achieve.

Loew has clear plans in Russia for title defense.

“We as a team need another improvement if we want to be successful. We have to play even better than we did at the 2014 World Cup,” the 58-year-old head coach said.

Loew stressed the importance of  two other important factors - the necessary changes in the team and the hunger to repeat their Brazil 2014 triumph.

After the 2006 World Cup, Loew guided his side to a steady and glorious decade with at least the last-four finish in each major tournament.

The success is based on the young generations’ growth and the constant upgrading of the tactical strategy.

When Germany finished as runners-up at Euro 2008, Loew humbly learned the lessons from the final defeat to Spain and researched into the “possession football” style of their opponents.

From that time on, Germany developed the speed, power and physical advantage, but also improved to a new level with more skillful ball-passing and a highly defensive line to maintain the momentum in their matches.

At Euro 2016, Loew again made the tactical change and tried the new strategy after Italy knocked Spain out of the group stage.

He made sure Germany could complete transition between 3-4-3 and 5-3-2 in defense and attack, which helped Germany finally beat Italy for the first time in a major tournament.

Therefore in Russia, Germany can have many strategy adjustments while facing different opponents.

With the improvement of the individual skills, the defending champions pay more attention to the efficiency of their attack based on their style.

Germany emphasize the collective efforts ahead of individuals.

There is no superstar in the team but the average power  is daunting, which is capable of delivering results.

Based on the successful youth training system in the country, Germany have more young talents to rely on for the necessary tactical change when needed.

Let’s not forget that at the 2017 Confederations Cup, Loew made his brave decision to take an inexperienced squad to Russia and rest his star players, but still won the dress rehearsal for the World Cup by beating Chile 1-0 at the final in St Petersburg.

The successful result helped him decide to take more than ten players, who lifted the Confederations Cup, to this summer’s World Cup.

Among the young talents, the fullback Joshua Kimmich, dubbed the “new Philipp Lahm”, is the only player who has played every minute of Germany’s ten World Cup qualifiers. RB Leipzig’s Timo Werner has also been beckoned to be a leading player of his generation.

The backbone of the world champions is still there as Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil, Thomas Mueller and Toni Kroos will use their experience and chemistry to carry on the team in Russia.

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UPDATE:

World Cup Group F Preview: Mexico hope to break “fourth-match jinx”

By Sportswriter Pan Yi BEIJING China (Xinhua) -- Mexico, together with Brazil and Germany, are the only teams  surviving the group stage in all of the last six FIFA World Cup, but the CONCACAF giants haven’t managed to make it past the round of 16. It’s as if Mexico’s fourth match at the World Cup is jinxed.

A traditional powerhouses, Mexico played France in the opener of the first World Cup in Uruguay in 1930. Russia 2018 will be Mexico’s 16th World Cup, and their seventh consecutive appearance.

Their best performances came in 1970 and 1986, when they advanced to the quarterfinals as hosts.

This summer in Russia, Mexico will undoubtedly go all out to snap their frustrating record.

In the 2014 World Cup, Mexico finished second in a tough group featuring hosts Brazil, Croatia and Cameroon, only conceding the top spot to Brazil on goal difference.

Their play concluded with a 2-1 defeat to the Netherlands in the last 16 round.

Mexico booked a spot in Russia 2018 with a 1-0 win over Panama, securing qualification with three matches remaining.

They lost just once in their 16 qualifiers.

Mexico’s attacking power came mainly from their all-time top scorer Javier Hernandez. 

Extremely quick and agile, Hernandez, who has played for Manchester United, Real Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen, scored many goals from close range.

His dribbling skill, pace, and ability to find space inside the box are all world class.

His minutes-per-goal ratio during his time with Manchester United is still among the most prolific in the history of the English Premier League.

German legend Rudi Voller praised Hernandez’s positioning in front of the goal, saying, “he certainly doesn’t win every tackle but he has an incredible sense of where the ball will end up.”  

Now playing for West Ham United, the 30-year-old  is still sharp and confident.

“We want to be world champions and we don’t want to put any limits on ourselves. Some people complain that we’re not being realistic, but the reality is that if you don’t dream and strive for more, then you’re the one who has it all wrong,” Hernandez said on his expectation from the World Cup.

Hernandez will likely line up  with Hirving Lozano, a 23-year-old rising star who plays for PSV Eindhoven.

Lozano may well be the one to watch in Russia 2018. He enjoyed a scintillating 2017, winning the CONCACAF Champions League with Pachuca, collecting the Golden Boot and also the Best Young Player award.

This earned him a move to PSV where he’s hit the ground running.

He also scored the only goal in the victory against Panama that secured Mexico’s place in Russia.

As a right-footed left winger, Lozano has an eye for  goals and fierce shots.

If he continues to impress and can show what he’s worth at the World Cup, PSV might find trouble to hold him on.

Besides Hernandez and Lozano, Mexico also have Miguel Layun (Sevilla), Raul Jimenez (Benfica) and Diego Reyes (Porto).

For the first time in their history, Mexico will head to a World Cup with half of their squad playing in Europe.

Coach Juan Carlos Osorio, a Colombian, is a tactician who is good at making detailed plans.

He is also an experienced manager capable of improving the atmosphere in the locker room.

Since he took the reins in 2015, Mexico have risen from 18th to 15th in the FIFA rankings.

Mexico have been drawn in Group F with defending champions Germany, Sweden and South Korea. It is not an easy group.

Even if Mexico advance as second placed finishers, they will most likely meet Brazil in the next round.

“We have a solid group of players with experience in Europe’s biggest leagues. If Raul, Javier and Hirving are on top of their game, then we can score against anyone,” Osorio said.

           

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