UEFA Nations League Germany vs France: Road to Redemption

Germany vs France

Europe’s newest international competition kicks off this week when the World Champions take on their neighbours and biggest rivals.

It’s UEFA Nations League Germany vs France at the Allianz Arena on Thursday and what a way to raise the curtain on this new competition. Didier Deschamp’s France is on the crest of a wave, returning from Russia with the World Cup. But for Germany boss Joachim Low, this is the start of a rebuild, and the road back for his team, battered and bruised in Russia.

The FIFA World Rankings tell a tale of triumph and disaster for these two giants of the International game, with France now on top of the world while Germany plummeted to 15th. So this is Germany’s chance to remind us all they haven’t gone away.

International breaks have always been greeted by fans with ambivalence: good if your local team needs a break (Burnley), not so good if you have the momentum (Watford).

But with the new competitive edge added, these are bigger and better games now; we’ll be following the lot on us.

Talking Points

So how does the UEFA Nations League work?

International matches in Europe finally have real meaning as the inaugural tournament kicks off this week.

While there will be separate qualification groups for the European Championship and World Cups, this will be another opportunity to qualify for the big tournaments from this league as well as promotion and relegation.

The tournament features all 55 of Europe’s international teams, split into four leagues by ranking (A, B, C and D). Each league is then divided into four small groups, and France and Germany find themselves in Group A1 along with the Netherlands. The winners of each group in League A will play off for the trophy and third and fourth places in June.

The bottom club in each group will be relegated and replaced by the four winners in the League below.

So let’s get it on!

How quickly can Germany recover?

Crashing out of the World Cup at the group stages was a catastrophe for Low, his team and the nation. But they didn’t deserve any more, seemingly playing without enough energy and certainly bereft of a cutting edge.

Leaving Manchester City’s flying winger, Leroy Sane, out of the World Cup squad was mystifying, to say the least. He has since been recalled albeit a little late as his early season form for City hasn’t been the best. This could be just the lift he needs, but he’ll probably start on the bench.

Low’s team doesn’t look as imposing as it did, but it still has world-class players in Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos, BVB’s Marco Reus and Sane’s team-mate Ilkay Gundogan. These could be the key to Germany’s success on Thursday as they come up against a fantastic French midfield featuring N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba.

More of the same for France…

Deschamps has made just one change to his World Cup-winning squad, bringing in keeper Benoit Costil to replace Steve Mandanda. But with skipper Hugo Lloris sidelined with injury PSG’s Alphonse Areola is set to deputise.

UEFA Nations League Germany vs France: Didier Deschamps Les Bleus versus Joachim Low's Die Mannschaft

France players celebrates and lifts the 2018 World Cup trophy after defeating Croatia in the final

France’s World Cup victory was characterised by the flair and beauty of Gallic football at its best, and there were times when it could have been even better. Antoine Griezmann and Pogba took a while to get into their stride, but the electrifying pace of Kylian M’Bappe had defences scurrying from the off.

Stuttgart’s Benjamin Pavard was one of the stars of Russia 2018; the 22-year-old hit the headlines with a stunning strike against Argentina and playing with confidence and great skill throughout.

History

Germany have been a force in world football since first winning the World Cup in 1954, but a sharp exit in Russia was both a shock and a humiliation after their fourth triumph in 2014.

Credit to Low, he has decided to stay on to oversee the rebuild as Germany set out on the road to redemption.

France won their second World Cup this year, and the worrying thing for Germany, along with the rest of the world, is how young Les Bleus are. They are just going to get better and better.

Deschamps’ boys already lead the head-to-heads in Germany vs France results, with four wins to two and two draws, and their recent form is much stronger. Les Bleus have won six and drawn one of the last seven, a run which took them to the top of the world, while Germany crashed out with one late win and two dreadful defeats, giving the former World champions just two wins in seven.

Betting Tip

??
Germany vs France France Asian Handicap 0.00 @ 2.11
September 7, 02:45 (GMT+8)

Germany have home advantage in Munich, and the Germany vs France odds give the hosts a slight edge at 2.43 to win in the Allianz Arena, while Les Bleus are at 2.82 and the draw is available at 3.15.

But France are dripping with talent and will be keen to keep Germany in their place. It could be a tight game, though, with Under 2.50 goals at 1.92 slightly shorter than Overs at 1.98, and the most likely scoreline is 1-1 at 5.40.

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World Cup 2018: Don’t Ever Bet Against the Germans

Korea Republic vs Germany

If the first 11 days of World Cup 2018 have taught us anything, it’s that us tips don’t always come true.

Few World Cup 2018 predictions expected Argentina to be held by minnows Iceland, or world champions Germany to slip up against Mexico, or that Iran and Morocco would hold European champions Portugal and Spain respectively.

However, for me, there is one certainty which remains in this tournament and has been apparent for the majority of World Cups in my lifetime: you can never write off the Germans!

Talking Points

Following Germany’s opening-day defeat to Mexico, the talking point was the possibility of the Germans going out in the group stages.

After all, how could the reigning world champions be beaten at the first hurdle for the third World Cup finals in a row?

The situation has clearly changed though, and the talking point now is: did you really ever bet against the Germans?

Toni Kroos’ 95th-minute wonder strike allowed them to avoid total elimination, and the Germans proved right there and then that they remain strong title contenders—living up to the pre-tournament hype.

Now, the onus is well and truly on them seeing off spirited South Korea and making sure they book their place in the last 16.

Germany are roaring back in Russia, and that should worry every other side in the tournament.

One German publication summed it up perfectly when it said: “Blood, sweat and tears. And then came Kroos.”

After coming back from the brink, much to the unhappiness of the Swedes, they can’t afford to rest on their laurels. But I don’t think they will.

Son Heung-Min and the Koreans are still fighting hard to keep their World Cup 2018 hopes alive

Son Heung-Min walks on the pitch frustrated after Korea Republic’s 1-2 loss against Mexico

Yes, Korea can still mathematically qualify—the only team to lose their first two games and still have a chance of reaching the knockout stages.

Although their team news is not positive and their odds are low, Korea will still make it on goal difference if they manage to beat Germany by a two-goal margin and Mexico beat Sweden by one goal.

And for the Germans to qualify, they must win by a two-goal margin.

A one-goal victory would mean they would need Mexico to beat Sweden by one goal or Sweden to see off Mexico by two goals.

Of course, a draw in that game will suffice too, so long as the Germans win.

The permutations are that wide.

I hope you got all that as you will be tested on it later!

Anyway, realistically, Germany should take care of their side of the business against the Son Heung-Min-led South Koreans, who have only shown glimpses of their talent.

The Taegeuk Warriors had hoped for distinctly more than that, even in such a tough group.

Two of the three goals they have conceded so far have come from the penalty spot, something which the Germans may prey on.

Low will have to make changes after Sebastian Rudy broke his nose against Sweden and Jerome Boateng was sent off.

Germany, once again, hold their destiny in their own hands and are unlikely to be disrupted.

Whatever the daily World Cup 2018 news brings, the importance of that fact cannot be underestimated.

History

World Cup 2018 has been an up-and-down ride for the defending champions Germany

Fans wave German flags during the match between Germany and Sweden

When these sides meet in the World Cup, the Germans have always won.

In the 1994 World Cup, Germany ran out 3-2 winners but were always in control after racing into a 3-0 lead before easing off.

In 2002, they were pushed all the way before emerging 1-0 winners against the co-hosts in the semi-finals—South Korea’s best performance at the World Cup by a distance.

A 3-1 friendly win two years later remains Korea’s only victory against the Germans. How they need another now.

What are the odds?

If South Korea pull off an unlikely triumph, it would earn you good money with 1X2 odds @ 11.50. Even the draw would do you well at 7.20, with Germany @ 1.20.

Even to lead after the opening 45 minutes, Korea Republic 1X2 comes in at 9.00 with a First Half draw priced at 1.59.

A fairly comfortable win for the Germans will pay out a limited amount with Asian Handicap betting: Germany -2.25 @ 2.40.

The one that has caught my eye is First Half Asian Handicap Germany -1.00 @ 2.29.

Total Goal 4-6 is priced @ 2.37 while a repeat of the eventual 3-2 clash at USA ’94 will get you odds of 38.00.

In the unlikely event of a goalless draw, no goal will pay out at 20.00 with Germany to win by three goals @ 7.20.

As for who is most likely to qualify from Group F, the dual forecast odds are Germany/Mexico @ 1.45 and Germany/Sweden @ 2.90.

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

 

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World Cup 2018: Qualifying Scenarios For the Knockout Stage

The fight is not yet over in the World Cup 2018.

While there are already a number of teams that have secured their tickets to the Round of 16, plenty of spots are still up for grabs heading to the final stretch of group stage games.

However, as teams fight for survival or for the top spot in their respective groups, there are several scenarios and permutations that could well decide who will move on to the knockout stages of the tournament.

Today, us provides you with a group-by-group update and what every team needs to do to make the cut.

GROUP A

Current team standings: Russia (1), Uruguay (2), Egypt (3), Saudi Arabia (4)

With six points each, Russia and Uruguay are already assured of the top two spots and a place in the knockout rounds. Uruguay can claim no.1 by beating Russia in their final game, while the Russians can defend their place with just a draw.

Both Egypt and Saudi Arabia are mathematically out of contention, regardless of the result of their match this Monday.

GROUP B

Current team standings: Spain (1), Portugal (2), Iran (3), Morocco (4)

Both Spain and Portugal can guarantee their place with a win or tie against their final group stage opponents. A defeat, though, will put them on a perilous situation of totally missing out.

Iran will qualify if they win over Portugal. However, if they play out a draw, they need Morocco to beat Spain by at least two goals. If La Furia Roja lose by just one goal, Iran must finish ahead of the 2010 champions on goal tally.

As we pointed in our World Cup 2018 predictions, Spain and Portugal are a cut above the rest in this group and it’s unlikely they’ll get eliminated this early.

World Cup 2018 favourites Portugal will go all out against Iran to advance in the knockout stage

Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo shoots a free kick during a Group B clash with Morocco

GROUP C

Current team standings: France (1), Denmark (2), Australia (3), Peru (4)

After eliminating Peru, France are all but secured of a Round of 16 berth. Denmark, on the other hand, must at least play a draw with the Frenchmen to ensure they won’t go home early.

If Australia win against Peru—and I think they will—they could topple Denmark should the Danes lose and concede more than two goals to Les Bleus.

GROUP D

Current team standings: Croatia (1), Nigeria (2), Iceland (3), Argentina (4)

Only Croatia have qualified to the next round, so the second place in this Group of Death is still a wide-open race.

Argentina, who were expected to top the group, are currently at the bottom of the standings. Nonetheless, they could make the huge leap to second if they win over Nigeria and Iceland fail to take down Croatia.

If Iceland reign victorious over the Croats, goal difference will decide the fate of both the Icemen and the Argentines.

Nigeria will grab second with a win, while a tie would put them in quite a danger especially if the Icelanders defeat Croatia.

GROUP E

Current team standings: Brazil (1), Switzerland (2), Serbia (3), Costa Rica (4)

Anyone among Brazil, Switzerland and Serbia can still get eliminated. Put simply, the losers of Matchday 3 will be sent home packing!

A tie for Brazil and the Swiss will also put them through, while the Serbs are up for the tough task of fending off Neymar and Co. Serbia can also survive with just a stalemate, but in order to do so, they have to pray for the unlikely event of Costa Rica stunning Switzerland by no less than a two-goal margin.

GROUP F

Current team standings: Mexico (1), Germany (2), Sweden (3), South Korea (4)

Amazingly, every team in Group F have a chance to qualify!

With six points after two wins, Mexico can top the group with a draw with Sweden. Nevertheless, if both the Swedes and Germans win, there will be a three-way tie from first to third—which will be decided on goal difference or their goal tally.

Toni Kroos and the Germans remain as one of the World Cup 2018 betting favourites

Germany’s Toni Kroos celebrates after scoring Die Mannschaft’s second goal against Sweden

Meanwhile, another three-way tie (from 2nd to fourth) could develop should both Sweden and Germany lose.

In the event that both games end in a dead heat, South Korea will be eliminated while Germany and Sweden will be down to tiebreakers.

GROUP G

Current team standings: Belgium (1), England (2), Panama (3), Tunisia (4)

The Red Devils are likely on their way to the do-or-die stages after the latest World Cup 2018 results that saw them thrash Tunisia.

With still two games to play, England can complete the job with victory over Panama. After that, they can vie for the top spot (and better seeding) with Belgium in the final group stage week.

Panama can’t afford to lose against the Three Lions if they are to salvage any hope of survival, but it might just be an exercise in futility considering the difference in quality that the two teams have shown so far.

GROUP H

Current team standings: Japan (1), Senegal (2), Poland (3), Colombia (4)

Each team in this group has only played one game so far, so it depends on the Matchday 2 results how Group H will shape up heading to the final week of this phase.

The winner of the Japan-Senegal match will qualify if the Poland-Colombia game ends up in a draw. Meanwhile, if Japan and Senegal share the spoils, the loser of the other match will be eliminated.

 

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Kroos Saves Germany’s FIFA 2018 Hopes

Germany 2-1 Sweden

A moment of pure genius from Toni Kroos grabbed a late, late win for Germany in the most dramatic climax yet in FIFA 2018.

For 95 minutes, Sweden thought they’d done enough to see off the Germans, after Ola Toivonen had given them a deserved lead, pegged back by Marco Reus. But Kroos’ swinging free-kick flew into the far corner of the net in the last meaningful play of the game.

At the beginning of this match, there were still four teams left in the Group F chase to qualify for the last 16, but after Mexico beat South Korea to reach six points, they were inches from qualification while the Koreans hurtled towards the exit. It’s still wide open now, and that is big FIFA 2018 news for Germany fans.

All of the team here at us backed Germany to reach the quarter-finals at least, as did almost all FIFA 2018 betting tips. But the defeat to Mexico in Joachim Low’s opening fixture tested our resolve. And for most of this game, it looked like Germany were on the way out.

Highlights of the game

Sweden’s narrow win over South Korea gave Jannw Andersson’s side real belief that they could qualify from this tough Group F, and the way they played in the first half added more strength to their argument.

They almost went ahead on 13 minutes when Marcus Berg burst into the box. He got his shot away which was easily saved by FC Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer but looked to have been tripped by Jerome Boateng as he pulled the trigger. The Swedes protested furiously, but no VAR assistance was offered.

Then, just after the half-hour, Sweden went deservedly ahead, sparking wild celebrations among their yellow-clad fans in Sochi. Viktor Claesson clipped over a super ball for Ola Toivonen to latch onto, and the Toulouse striker chipped the ball brilliantly over the advancing Neuer.

Ola Toivonen's goal puts Sweden ahead at the break in World Cup 2018

Ola Toivonen’s goal has Germany facing World Cup elimination

Andersson’s team looked the better side, but keeper Robin Olsen was called on to make a brave double save to keep their noses in front. First, he kept out Ilkay Gundogan’s deflected shot before saving from Thomas Muller’s follow-up effort at the near post.

Sweden almost doubled the lead right on the stroke of half-time when Seb Larsson swung over a brilliant cross, met by Marcus Berg who headed towards the corner only for Manuel Neuer to palm the ball wide.

Low must have put a rocket up his lacklustre side at half-time because they exploded into life as soon as the second half started, levelling matters on 48 minutes when Timo Werner made it to the by-line and crossed for Marco Reus to knee the ball into the net.

That changed the mood in Sochi as the Germany fans suddenly found their voices and their team remembered they were World champions. But much as they pressed and probed, Sweden held firm and began to look more comfortable as the half went on, probably happy with a point.

Germany came mighty close, though, on 72 minutes when Werner crossed into the danger area, but the ball was bundled away just as Mario Gomez was about to pounce.

Sweden did come out of their half with 15 minutes left on the clock they won a corner. And as the ball pinged out to Emil Forsberg, the Leipzig midfielder fired a volley in from 25 yards that was comfortably saved by Neuer.

Werner fired over when he might have scored; then Germany went down to ten men when Boateng saw red after he fouled Berg, and that handed the momentum back to Sweden. And they almost snatched a winner when Neuer slipped as a cross flew in but just managed to get a hand to the ball to deny John Guidetti.

As Germany became more desperate, they threw players forward and came so close when Toni Kroos fired in a superb cross for Gomez who saw his point-blank header tipped over by Olsen. And Swedish hearts were in their mouths when Julian Brandt fired a stinging shot in from 20 years which crashed against the post.

But their hearts were broken on 95 minutes when Kroos fired in his beauty at the death.

Toni Kroos’ late goal saves Germany’s World Cup 2018 campaign

Sweden players reacts after Germany’s Toni Kroos scores his side’s second goal in Sochi

Key statistics

Just take a look at the Group F Table to see what that all means. Germany are back in with a great chance of qualifying. With a population eight times that of Sweden’s 10 million, you’d expect the World Champions to win, I guess.

How about a quirky statistic? The average height of the Sweden and Germany squad players is identical at 6ft 1 ¼ inches. Big lads.

And here’s another thing. VAR wasn’t called upon tonight when Berg was tripped in the box, but it’s certainly made a difference here in Russia. There have been 14 penalties awarded already at this World Cup and that’s more than the whole of World Cup 2014 together.

What’s next?

It’s all back on again for the Group F teams next Wednesday when Germany face South Korea in Kazan and Sweden meet Mexico in Yekaterinburg.

Sweden need do better against Mexico than Germany do against Korea. It’s as simple as that. But who’d bet against Germany after that?

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Germany vs Mexico: An Exciting Duel Awaits Moscow!

Germany vs Mexico

The Germans have finally reached Moscow! Now, it’s time for them to take the initiative and conquer Russia!

The defending champions and one of the biggest favourites to lift the World Cup trophy will be squaring off with North America’s best football team. Germany vs Mexico is slated to be one of the biggest matches among the Day 1 games of the World Cup.

There are plenty of Germany vs Mexico news floating around, and us has collated them to help you make the perfect choice in this seemingly hard-to-predict match. This preview will bring up important points to help you make an informed decision on which team should get your support and bets.

Will El Tri make a stunning upset against the World Cup champions? Or will the Nationalelf start their campaign with a comfortable victory?

Talking Points

Germany are still heavy favourites to take home the trophy for two consecutive World Cups, but it has been discussed that they are no longer the clear-cut preference of the us tips team to win in Russia. They’ve had an abysmal preparation to this year’s competition, not winning a single game ever since qualifying for Russia, save for their 2-1 win against Saudi Arabia.

The most shocking fixture in my eyes has to be the 2-1 defeat they suffered against Austria, a nation that isn’t even going to participate in the coming tournament. Joachim Low’s men look so underprepared that former Germany international Thomas Hitzlsperger went to The Guardian and expressed his concerns about Germany’s preparedness for their World Cup defence.

However, it cannot be denied that Low has brought a lot of impressive players to don the German shirt. Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos and Arsenal star man Mesut Ozil are at the core of an impressive midfielding core that can poke the holes of any defensive setup. Timo Werner has impressed at the Bundesliga and will likely make a big splash in the tournament.

Meanwhile, Mexico are zeroing in to make this World Cup count. It has just been confirmed that they will be hosting the 2026 World Cup alongside the United States and Canada, and winning against insanely tough competition is the best way that they can celebrate the achievement.

Betting odds are in the favour of the defending champions as they look to start with a win

Joachim Low overseeing the training of his squad ahead of their World Cup title defence

Chicharito is the brightest name among El Tri, but many of the players in the roster have blinding speedsters that can catch offside traps off guard and make a shocking upset to pre-World Cup predictions.

The X-Factor in this match is definitely winger Hirving Lozano. His lightning pace has brought 17 goals for PSV in the Eredivisie and could pose a lot of problems to the German defence if they don’t sort out the problems Austria exposed during their friendlies.

History

These two nations have had plenty of history to go back to. The two nations first met in a 1968 friendly when Deutschland was still divided into two. Then-West Germany failed to score a single goal against Mexico then dominated them 5-0 three years later. Die Mannschaft have since then dominated Mexico for most of their meetings. The only blemish in their record was their City Tournament loss in 1985 where Luis Flores and Manuel Negrete Arias scored to give Mexico the 2-0 win.

Mexico not only have to battle their poor international record against Germany, they also have to beat their own demons. Mexican supporters have dubbed their national team’s inability to make it to the quarter-final of the tournament as “the Curse of the Fifth Game”.

While Mexico captain Rafa Marquez will tell you that the curse isn’t real, he is adamant that now is the time for Mexico to make history.

“[I dream] about making history with the national team,” Marquez, who is hanging up his boots after Mexico’s exit in the World Cup, told ESPN. “It’s been a thorn in the side that in four opportunities we’ve not been able to achieve it.

“This is the moment, it’s today, it’s the present. We can’t wait four more years to make history.”

What are the Odds?

Mexico aim to get the win so they can start their World Cup journey right

Mexico looking focused during their training session ahead of the World Cup

A quick look at the Germany-Mexico betting tips reveals that bookies still look at Germany to dominate against the Mexicans and set up a strong run to the top of Group F.

In the Asian Handicap market, Germany get 2.12 odds for a -1.25 handicap. However, if you believe in Mexico’s ability to pull off a draw or an even more incredible upset, a +0.75 boost offers 2.44 as a reward.

Both of these teams have prolific attackers that can provide fans at the Stadion Luzhniki superb attacking football. I would not rule a high-scoring game to happen here, and over 2.75 goals promise 1.98.

There is a high possibility that this game could end 2-1 in Germany’s favour, and betting on this score is at 7.20. A 1-1 draw is at 8.00, while an improbably 0-1 Mexico win is at an eye-popping 18.00.

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

 

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World Cup 2018 Talking Points: Germany No Longer Clear Favourites?

The World Cup 2018 is upon us and all eyes will be on defending champions Germany who are seeking football immortality by winning back-to-back titles.

Joachim Low’s men are heading to the summer tournament not only as champions but also as the top-ranked nation in the world, so it’s no wonder why the Germans are considered favourites to top their group and lift the trophy in Moscow come July.

However, the team’s recent performance in friendlies and a number of other factors have raised doubts whether or not this current version of the Germany squad is up to par with the 2014 team that obliterated Brazil en route to the title.

Ahead of the World Cup kick-off,  us takes a look at Germany and presents five talking points that could well dictate the direction of their historic title bid.

Depth and quality of the second string

Die Mannschaft are brimming with quality, so concerns about their depth are not even worth discussing, right?

Not to mention that they won the Confederations Cup in Russia last year with what was virtually their second string.

But make no mistake, Germany haven’t won a friendly game since qualifying and even lost to an Austrian squad that won’t be competing in the summer event!

While most German fans wouldn’t give much importance to the outcome of a mere friendly, a five-game winless streak is unacceptable. It also raises one intriguing thought: the Germans might not be as good as we make them out to be.

Dropping Leroy Sane from the nation’s final 23-man squad is also a risky move for Joachim Low. Unarguably the biggest omission in this year’s World Cup, Sane was left out in favour of Bayer Leverkusen’s Julian Brandt.

Joachim Low surprises many sports betting experts with the exclusion of Leroy Sane in Germany's squad

Leroy Sane dribbling the ball down the pitch during Germany’s international friendly against Austria

Sane might not be the best fit for the team, but his electric pace and unpredictable movement could be a critical weapon off the bench for Germany. But now, what seems to be a struggling backup squad have to do without one of their brightest young stars.

Only the World Cup 2018 results will tell whether we’re worried for nothing or not; but if the reigning champions fail, Low should expect to receive plenty of questions and criticisms about how he chose and prepared his team.

Fitness concerns

Staying healthy is of utmost importance for every World Cup nation, and that goes for Germany as well. Unfortunately, even before the Russia tournament starts, they are already dealing with fitness issues.

Midfielder Mesut Ozil and defender Jerome Boateng, who are both members of Germany’s 2014 team, are facing fitness battles ahead of the big dance.

Ozil is suffering from a bruised knee sustained in their lost to Austria and has less than two weeks to recover in time for their opener against Mexico.  Meanwhile, Boateng is still nursing the hamstring injury that he picked up during Bayern Munich’s Champions League semi-final match against Real Madrid.

In fact, Boateng admitted that he’s only at “90 percent” fitness, though he vowed to be ready for the World Cup.

And who could forget about returning goalkeeper Manuel Neuer? Germany’s undisputed No. 1 is ready to repeat his 2014 heroics; but after recovering from a serious foot injury that limited him to just 360 minutes of competitive football for Bayern last season, the 32-year-old keeper is facing questions if he can take the strain of playing in the competition.

Striker problem

Besides their depth and fitness, another matter worth discussing is who is going to carry the scoring load for Germany.

Thomas Muller, Timo Werner and Mario Gomez form part of the team’s frontline, but none of the three really stood out in the qualifiers and in their recent friendlies. They have only ten goals between them in qualifying and have been largely ineffective, particularly in their losses to Brazil and Austria in the warm-ups.

It should be noted that Muller led the scoring for Germany in Brazil with five goals on his way to winning the silver boot. Nonetheless, the 28-year-old forward has had an ugly season with Bayern Munich after playing in just 22 games—the fewest league matches he has played since making it to the club’s first team.

It will be intriguing to see who among them will develop into the team’s go-to guy, but it won’t be surprising if none of them achieves that level.

Toni Kroos: Older and better?

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Germany`s Key Man – Toni Kroos
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Toni Kroos returns to the German national team as a more-experienced champion, and he will be vital to keep the Germans’ offence running and firing once again.

In a team that boasts a wealth of talent in midfield, Kroos might not always be the headliner. Nevertheless, his ability to dictate play, penetrate defences, take advantage of spaces and occasionally score will be as crucial to the team as it was in Brazil.

For what it’s worth, the Castrol Performance Index—which analyses player statistics at the previous World Cup—rated the Real Madrid star as the competition’s top player.

Can he top his exploits four years ago?

Joachim Low’s winning pedigree

Amid their problems, Germany have one advantage that only a few other nations possess: a coach with a winning history.

Low is undoubtedly a winner and has the accolades to back it up. He has been with the national side for 12 years now, a clear proof of how the four-time World Cup titlists trust the 58-year-old.

He guided the Germans to a perfect 10-for-10 record as they became the only team to win all their qualifying games—one of the reasons why World Cup 2018 predictions have them as the runaway winners this year.

Put simply, Low is a serial winner, and it’s difficult to beat a team with a tactician who knows what to do on the big stage.

The challenge is on Low and Germany to become just the third nation to win back-to-back World Cup titles. While it will be more difficult for them to win this time around, Die Mannschaft supporters are certainly hopeful their veteran manager can lead them to the promised land again.

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Zidane reveals duo fitness wait

Zinedine Zidane is waiting to see if Luka Modric and Toni Kroos will be fit enough for Real Madrid's Champions League last-16 second leg tie at Paris Saint-Germain.

The midfield duo both missed Saturday's 3-1 La Liga derby win against ten-man Getafe at the Santiago Bernabeu, but Zidane has refused to rule them out of Tuesday's trip to Paris where Los Blancos hold a 3-1 first leg lead.

The Frenchman said: "They still haven't trained with us, we'll have to see if they do tomorrow.

"I will never rue having players absent. They are important players but we have to look to Tuesday's game. If they can't be with us, then someone else will play. We have two days to see how Luka and Toni will be."

Zidane was delighted to get back to winning ways on Saturday with Gareth Bale on target, while Cristiano Ronaldo took his tally to 300 La Liga goals in 286 appearances courtesy of a brace.

The Portugal international was seen holding an ice pack on his calf after being substituted, but Zidane expects him to be fit, while Marcelo also made his return from injury in the second half.

Zidane added: "Before a second-leg game like Tuesday it was very important to have three days in a good mood. When you lose it's tough. It was very important to win. We played a very serious game."

Real Madrid are priced at 5/2 to win the second leg in 90 minutes and 2/7 to qualify for the quarter-finals, while PSG are 14/1 to win the game 2-0 which would see them progress on the away goals rule and they are available at 11/4 to qualify.

Kroos reveals top-four target

Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos believes his side have to ensure they finish in the top four in La Liga, having endured a tough league season to date.

Los Blancos suffered their latest setback on Saturday as they were beaten 1-0 at home by Villarreal, who closed to within a point of Real, who currently occupy fourth place in the standings.

And Kroos accepts that all hopes of retaining the league title are gone, with Barcelona already 16 points clear of their deadly rivals.

The Germany international told BeIN Sports: "First of all, we have to think about our position at the moment.

"We have to focus on qualifying for the Champions League next season. I think that should be the objective for the rest of the season.

"That's because 16 points (to Barcelona) is very big. It's not the time to think about anything that isn't the next game and picking up points in order to get closer to our objective, which is to be among the top four."

Meanwhile, head coach Zinedine Zidane remains confident that Real will be able to turn their fortunes around as soon as they improve on a run of one win in five games since they lifted the FIFA Club World Cup.

He added: "Once we win a game it will change things. We have to keep thinking that we're going to change them. After we win a match, we must keep working hard so we can win the next one.

"I don't think we're predictable and the team haven't hit rock bottom. We're in a bad way and losing was a blow, but we'll keep going."

Real are 8/1 to win a third consecutive Champions League title this season, with Barcelona 13/2 and Manchester City 3/1.

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Football Preview: Champions League Final Is Tough To Call

This year's Champions League final is one for the purists, with perennial European powerhouses Juventus and Real Madrid pitted together in a clash of styles in Cardiff.

The Italian giants will rely largely on a well-drilled and resilient defence in Wales, backed up by legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.

Their Spanish rivals, meanwhile, can call on the incomparable Cristiano Ronaldo to spearhead an abundance of attacking flair.

Such different, yet equally impressive attributes make this a tough one to call, with Real only slight favourites at 17/20 to lift the trophy and Juve available at Evens.

Real are bidding to become the first club to claim back-to-back triumphs in Europe's elite club competition in the Champions League era.

The Whites have beaten neighbours Atletico in two of the last three finals, prevailing in extra time in Lisbon in 2014 and then on penalties in Milan 12 months ago.

Punters can get 31/20 they get the job done in normal time at the Principality and it is 43/20 we again get at least an additional 30 minutes of action following a draw.

Real again saw off Atletico in this season's semi-finals, with the damage done by a Ronaldo hat-trick in the first leg at the Bernabeu.

The Portugal superstar had previously sparkled in both encounters with Bayern Munich at the last-eight stage, netting five times in a 6-3 aggregate win that went all the way to extra time.

It has been another season of landmarks and milestones for Ronaldo, with the former Manchester United ace reaching a century of goals in this tournament and 400 for his current club in all competitions.

"He has something, he's different," commented Real boss Zinedine Zidane. "More than just the goals and what he's done up to now, he's always there in the decisive moments."

The admiration is mutual, with Ronaldo stating: "I really like Zidane – his personality, his way of coaching. As a player, I love it."

Interestingly, Ronaldo does also have a good head-to-head record against Buffon, scoring on all four occasions he has met him at club level.

The 32-year-old is 10/7 to hit the back of the net in normal time during this match, 18/5 to break the deadlock and the same price to score the last goal.

Ronaldo could even pip Lionel Messi to this season's Champions League Golden Boot if bagging a brace or better and 8/1 is available for that to happen.

However, Juventus have been able to rely on an incredibly mean defence up until this point, starting off with just two goals conceded during the group stage.

Buffon then helped the Old Lady keep five straight clean sheets in the knockout rounds, notably holding firm in both legs against Barcelona and when travelling to France to face a dashing young Monaco outfit.

Only a consolation strike in the second leg of that semi-final contest blotted their copybook and Juve are 43/20 not to concede against Real in normal time in Wales, plus 19/5 to win to nil.

Buffon is desperate to get his hands on the Champions League trophy for the first time at the age of 39, declaring: "We've got to Cardiff but I won't say it was our aim, because getting to the final means nothing."

Juve's record in European Cup deciders is far from convincing, with a 3-1 loss to Barcelona in Berlin two years ago being the sixth time in eight previous finals they have come up just short.

On the plus side, they did manage to see off Real in the semis that season, winning 2-1 in Italy and then drawing 1-1 in Spain.

Massimiliano Allegri has continued the good work started by Antonio Conte at this grand old club and the current squad does have a bit more of an attacking threat.

Much of the money collected from the sale of Paul Pogba to Manchester United was reinvested in Gonzalo Higuain, who had previously established himself with Real and Napoli.

The 29-year-old Argentina hitman does polarise opinions, with many feeling he lacks the pace and movement to be a great striker in the modern game.

However, Higuain came good at the right time with a double strike in the away leg against Monaco and is 9/5 to net versus Real in normal time, 22/5 to bag the opener and the same price for the last goal.

"Higuain is a complete striker, surely among the best three nines in the world," insisted Juve's tough-as-teak defender Giorgio Chiellini.

Juventus have also benefitted from the progress made by Argentine playmaker Paulo Dybala, while acquiring the talents of Brazil wing-back Dani Alves from Barcelona was a masterstroke by Allegri.

"I'd say the greatest difference between this Juventus and the one you saw in the final two years ago is inner belief," added Chiellini.

"I don't think any of us really expected to go all the way to Berlin, but we grew into the competition as it went on. We then showed maybe a little too much respect to Barcelona in the final and that showed in our performance.

"This time around we know how to manage the key moments and we have the confidence to go toe to toe with Europe's best in the knowledge that we have what it takes to beat them."

The supporting cast for Real isn't too shabby either, though, with Luka Modric and Toni Kroos pulling the strings in midfield and quoted at 8/1 and 7/2 respectively to be credited with an assist.

Karim Benzema is always capable of popping up with a goal and 6/1 for him to break the deadlock is sure to attract support.

Of course, this would also be the ideal opportunity for Gareth Bale to put his calf injury problems behind him when returning to his home city.

The Wales winger put Real ahead in extra time three years ago and was one of their successful penalty takers last season.

"To score in a final is an amazing feeling," said the 27-year-old. "The adrenaline going through your body after you've scored the goal is incredible, indescribable.

"I think winning the Champions League is definitely right up there and will always live in the memory. The experience of lifting that trophy, you dream about it when you're a kid."

It would be a fairytale for Bale to see Real crowned champions of Europe for the 12th time, but the tears will also flow if Buffon helps Juve end a 21-year wait for their third success.

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