“We have two first-team players for every position” – Germany forward Thomas Müller
Captain Philipp Lahm, record goalscorer Miroslav Klose and defender Per Mertesacker retired from international football after the 2014 finals, with Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lukas Podolski following suit in 2016 and 2017 respectively, but nine members of the triumphant ensemble will travel to Russia – Müller included.
Joachim Löw’s 23-man squad also boasts 13 members of Germany’s 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup-winning team, Manchester City’s Ilkay Gündogan the one exception.
“If you look at the squad, the way we’re training and the fact that we have two first-team players for almost every position, then things are looking very positive,” Müller said at Germany’s media day on Wednesday. “We also have a number of Confederations Cup winners in the squad. Individually, we’re certainly better than we were. We’ll see what happens, but we all want to leave as winners.”
*Translation: Top training conditions. Germany highly motivated
The 2018 World Cup represents Müller’s third appearance at the finals. He top-scored (five) and scooped the Best Young Player award in South Africa in 2010, when Germany were beaten 1-0 by eventual winners Spain in the last four, before edging Uruguay 3-2 in the third-place play-off.
The 28-year-old added five goals to his World Cup tally four years later, losing out on a second successive Golden Boot prize to now Bayern teammate James Rodriguez of Colombia as Germany lifted their fourth world title.
Current squad members Jerome Boateng, Sami Khedira, Toni Kroos, Manuel Neuer and Mesut Özil also played under Löw in 2010 and 2014. Mario Gomez was part of the 2010 squad, but missed out four years later.
So what can we expect from the class of 2018?
“German football has come a long way since 2010,” Müller said. “Not only the success in 2014, but in the way we play our football. We love to be in possession of the ball. That’s not to say that I don’t admire the old playing style. I personally look for the most direct way of scoring a goal – but we have become a team who looks to be in possession, that plays a short-passing game with a lot of movement in the middle of the park.
“My personal role isn’t all that different from that in 2014 in Brazil, but at my first tournament in 2010, where I was the new guy, I just tried to do my job. Today, given my experience, I try to be a positive influence on the other players.”
That shouldn’t be too difficult. A 90-time senior international, Müller needs just six more goals to tie Klose – now part of Löw’s coaching team – as the World Cup finals’ all-time record scorer (16). His total tally reads 38 and counting.
Germany begin their title defence against Mexico on 17 June. Sweden and South Korea complete Group F.