Carolin Boldt, a BA (Hons) Multimedia Sports Journalism student at UCFB Etihad Campus, previews Germany’s hopes at the 2018 World Cup in Russia…

After the last friendly against Austria, it is tough to keep the hope that Germany will become world champions this year.

The match was thought to be a sure win for the DFB team, but the 2:1 defeat was a harsh wake up call. Joachim Loew was clearly frustrated and disappointed, as were his players.

This setback also caused the manager to give his squad an even harder time throughout the final training phase in the lead up to the World Cup. Fans had a good two weeks to recover from the shock and rebuild their hopes and ambitions, to support their team through the group stage, into the finals and hopefully to the Champion’s podium.

I would like to think that Germany could become world champions again, but I am not convinced we can do it. The DFB Team seemed too confident before a lot of their friendly matches and, as we have seen in the match against Austria, that is never a good thing.

Also, Manuel Neuer, who was one of the key players during the World Cup in 2014, is still not fully back on track after his serious injury. Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil, who had a brilliant season creating 84 chances in the Premier League, injured his knee during the preparation for the World Cup, and was only back in training five days before Germany’s opening match against Mexico. The result of that match certainly hasn’t dispelled fears for the tournament.

Loew’s decision to take Julian Brandt instead of Leroy Sane was a big surprise for a lot of fans. Both players are young, motivated and had brilliant seasons, but everyone expected to see Sane on the pitch in Russia, after he was awarded the PFA Young Player of the Year title as one of the key players in Manchester City’s winning season.

Chelsea’s Antoine Rudiger and Bayern Munich’s, Jerome Boateng will be seen frequently defending the DFB team’s goal in Russia, as they both successfully played in their league during the season.

The combination of midfielder Ilkay Gundogan and young strikers, Timo Werner and Marco Reus, could potentially be dangerous for Germany’s opponents during the World Cup, and might become a key formation for Loew to play during the next few weeks.

Overall though, the DFB team is well set-up for this World Cup, but let us not forget about the Belgium national team led by Roberto Martinez. During his Guest Speaker Session at UCFB Etihad Campus in the fall of 2017, he mentioned the great work ethics of his squad and that he has high hopes for his team’s performance in Russia. Kevin De Bruyne and Vincent Kompany could make a perfect year for themselves, winning a World Cup title in addition to the Premier League title.

I think that we all will be surprised by the performance of the Icelandic national team. The unconventional squad is made up from a dentist, teachers and other workers, as the country has such a small population, they cannot have full-time footballers in their domestic league. Yet, they seem to be one of the most enthusiastic and motivated nations when it comes to the World Cup. Months in advance they had already posted adverts and teasers across social media sites, showing life in Iceland and the incredible support of the whole population, including the Prime Minister.

Germany and Belgium both still have a good chance of winning this World Cup, but I could also see France or Spain claiming the title. It will be a tough competition, and the next few weeks will be loaded with anticipation, fear and hope.