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2019 Women's World Cup team previews: Germany

The two-time World Cup winners are hungry to reclaim the World Cup crown. The Die Nationalelf has finished off the podium in the previous two additions of this tournament. Long the dominant team in Europe, Germany's six-tournament run as European champions was snapped in 2017 by the Netherlands, but don't rule out Martina Voss-Tecklenburg's side as a real contender here. Currently ranked No. 2 in the world, the Germans won gold at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, the last major international tournament, and arrive in France among the betting favorites.

How they got here

The Germans qualified for France 2019 as winners of UEFA World Cup Qualifying Group 5, which featured Iceland, Czech Republic, Slovenia and the Faroe Islands. An early slip-up against Iceland at home in Wiesbaden meant the group favorite's automatic progression was not always assured. In fact, Germany trailed Iceland in the group entering the final two fixtures, before a 2-0 win in Reykjavik behind a brace from Svenja Huth saw the Germans leapfrog into pole position.

The Germans went on to win their qualifying finale 8-0 against the Faroe Islands to secure automatic qualification and win the group by four points over Iceland and seven points over Czech Republic. As group winners, Germany continued its record of having qualified for every World Cup to date (8-8).

Strengths/Weaknesses

Germany's biggest strength is its attack, as Voss-Tecklenburg can count on one of the world's most prolific strikers in Wolfsburg's Alexandra Popp and a Ballon d'Or Feminin finalist in attacking midfield in Lyon's Dzsenifer Marozsan. Add in the hero against Iceland, Huth and 21-year-old, up-and-comer Lea Schuller (eight goals in 12 games for Germany), and it's easy to see how Germany racked up a UEFA qualifying-best 38 goals, nine more than any other nation during group play.

One position to watch with the Germans is goalkeeper. Experienced Almuth Schult's health will be a question mark. The 28-year-old, who owns 58 caps for her country, was named to Germany's 23-woman World Cup squad in mid-May, but a shoulder injury is threatening to rule her out for the tournament. Schult backstopped Germany to gold in Rio, but if she is unable to go, the buck passes to either Laura Benkarth or Merle Frohms, two goalkeepers who have little experience at international level.

Money Stat: 4

New Germany manager Voss-Tecklenburg will have overseen only four games as Germany manager by the time Germany kicks off its World Cup against China on June 8. For all the talent and experience the Germans have, building an identity and finding cohesion under their new manager might prove to be the biggest variable in projecting Germany's tournament success.

A former German international as a player, Voss-Tecklenburg managed Switzerland throughout the 2019 World Cup qualifying cycle and won't have much time to build a familiarity with Germany's players and install her system and ideals. How quickly Germany can take to her principles will ultimately determine how far the team advances in France.

Players to Watch

Germany's brightest two stars are the aforementioned Popp and Marozsan. Popp, who will be playing in her third World Cup, figures to score the goals for Germany (45 in 95 appearances) and because of her size, physicality and propensity as a poacher, she will prove to be a tough competitor to deal with for defenders in Group B and beyond.

Marozsan, though, is the player that makes Germany go, and as her third-place finish in the Ballon d'Or Feminin attests, she is one of the most feared footballers on the planet. The Hungarian-born maestro does it all for Germany: linking midfield, creating chances for her forwards and scoring goals herself. The World Cup is the only major title missing from Marozsan's well-stocked trophy case, and in what is likely her last shot, expect her to have a massive tournament.

Key game

Germany should have enough talent and depth to win Group B, but the key game in that pursuit will be its second match against rapidly improving Spain on June 12. While China is the more traditional power, Spain raised eyebrows this qualifying cycle with a perfect 8-0-0 record while scoring 25 goals and conceding only two. Spain can also draw confidence from a 0-0 draw on German soil in a friendly last November, so Germany will know firsthand how good La Roja is when playing well.

Local Feedback

Germany may enter the tournament with more buzz than any other nation, as their recent ad campaign went viral. The campaign features many of Germany's stars and challenges stereotypes against women and women's soccer.

"We don't have balls. But we know how to use them! We're the ones with makeup on our faces. We like to wear high heels and knee socks. We like to dance. ... When it comes to role models, we just have to look in the mirror. Don't worry, you don't need to know who we are. You just need to know what we want." -- script from ad campaign

Germany will hope people will know the names of its players after the tournament, as the side is hungry for a third World Cup title and arrives in France with expectations of bringing home the title.

Prediction

Germany should have no problems getting through a Group B of China, Spain and South Africa. After that, the proceedings will get tougher, but the experienced and always well-organized Germans are built for a deep run.

Germany has a favorable route to the semifinals, and when they get there, the team will be favored against likely Australia, Brazil or the Netherlands. Second place will have to do though, as France on home soil or the United States would be a tough ask for a German side that is not quite at the peak of its powers anymore.

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