FIFA World Cup Russia 2018: Germany and Spain are favourites, but their finishing ability creates doubts
No doubt, Germany and Spain are clear favourites to win the FIFA World Cup 2018 alongside Brazil, France and Argentina. Both of the European veterans have assembled a solid squad with quality players. La Roja and Die Mannschaft are looking to grab their second and fifth World Cup respectively, but their finishing ability creates doubts for me.
Looking at both of the European heavyweights, their forward departments don’t impress me. However, they have got great goalkeeper, defenders, and midfielders in their team.
Let’s start from Germany. A formidable side, defending champion, and better prepared than any other side in the World Cup. Take a look at their squad.
Germany squad for FIFA World Cup Russia 2018
Goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer, Kevin Trapp, Marc-Andre ter Stegen
Defenders: Marvin Plattenhardt, Jonas Hector, Matthias Ginter, Mats Hummels, Niklas Sule, Antonio Rudiger, Jerome Boateng, Joshua Kimmich
Midfielders: Sami Khedira, Julian Draxler, Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil, Marco Reus, Leon Goretzka, Sebastian Rudy, Julian Brandt, Ilkay Gundogan
Forwards: Timo Werner, Mario Gomez, Thomas Muller
They have got three great goalkeepers in Neuer (Bayern Munich), Trapp (PSG), and Ter Stegen (Barcelona). Manuel Neuer is in fact last World Cup Golden Gloves winner when they stood victorious.
A great defensive line in Bayern Munich centre-back pairing Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng. Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich) and Jonas Hector (FC Koln) is there to prove their mettle in the right-back and left-back position as well. Marvin Plattenhardt (Hertha BSC), Matthias Ginter (Monchengladbach), Niklas Sule (Bayern Munich), and Antonio Rudiger (Chelsea) are good backup options.
Midfield is simply their gem. Die Mannschaft have got Sami Khedira (Juventus), Julian Draxler (PSG), Toni Kroos (Real Madrid), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal), Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund), Leon Goretzka (Schalke 04), Sebastian Rudy (Bayern Munich), Julian Brandt (Bayer Leverkusen), and Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City).
They can put any three out of that list in the middle and they can create problems for any defense in the world. However, they will stick with Khedira, Kroos, and Ozil, but seriously they have so much of talent in the middle. Ilkay Gundogan, Julian Draxler, Marco Reus, and Julian Brandt are not the names you’ll be comfortable with when they come on the pitch.
But, Germany will have to rely too much on their midfield dynamo. They haven’t got much to trust in their forward line. Mario Gomez soon to be 33, is not a force he used to be in the last World Cup. Timo Werner is too young to deal with the constant pressure at this level. And he is simply more of a supply line for me than a regular scorer. He has only 13 goals to his name in 32 Bundesliga appearances this season with an impressive 8 assists.
Thomas Muller is also not in scoring touch as well. The player has been more of a provider to Robert Lewandowski at the club (Bayern Munich) level rather pushing himself for goals. His 8 goals and 16 assists in 29 Bundesliga games suggest all his importance as an assist provider rather than goal-scorer.
They would have more trusted forward line with the presence of PFA Young Player of the Year Leroy Sane presence, but unfortunately Coach Joachim Low chooses not to include the Manchester City winger in his 23-man squad.
Their goal scoring will depend a lot on Bayer Leverkusen’s Julian Brandt and Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus. But keeping Reus fit is a challenge. He is injury-prone and it’s injury which left him out of the 2014 title winning World Cup squad.
Now, let’s talk about Spain. They had their worst run in 2014 World Cup, but football pundits believe that they have recovered well after the debacle of Brazil World Cup. However, their Euro 2016 campaign wasn’t something to give than any motivation either. it is only in recent months under coach Julen Lopetegui, Spain has found their lost touch.
They are again playing their attacking possession-based game and dominating the play. But, his team is also made of midfield mavericks rather than completely trusting their forwards. And with possession football, you need finishers in opponents’ penalty box which Spain lacks at the moment.
Spain World Cup squad for FIFA World Cup Russia 2018
Goalkeepers: David De Gea, Kepa Arrizabalaga, Jose Manuel Reina
Defenders: Daniel Carvajal, Gerard Pique, Nacho Fernandez, Alvaro Odriozola, Cesar Azpilicueta, Sergio Ramos, Nacho Monreal, Jordi Alba
Midfielders: Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, Saul Niguez, Koke, Thiago Alcantara, Marco Asensio, David Silva, Isco
Forwards: Rodrigo, Lucas Vazquez, Iago Aspas, Diego Costa
You can’t get a better midfield and defence in any of the teams’ squad for Russia 2018. They are best out there in these positions but when it comes to forward line it looks like an average no.9 squad for me. You can sense that Germany and Spain are on the same page in this department.
La Roja will have to depend a lot on their midfield attacking players for the goals. However, they have got players like Isco and Asensio (both Real Madrid) who can make the difference but still, goal scoring is a no.9 job and they simply lack it.
They left Alvaro Morata at home who was simply not in-form, but his replacement Diego Costa and Rodrigo are also not up to the mark to lead a great Spain playing XI. Costa can be useful with his bullying methods and physical presence but that’s not how Spain plays.
Iago Aspas could be useful from the wing position, but he can’t fill in the no.9 job. Spain simply lack the killer touch inside the opponents’ penalty box.
Two of the great teams who are FIFA World Cup Russia 2018’s favourite simply are not good in the decisive area of the game. It’s a problem and teams who can show their defensive ability and trust their defense will know that they don’t need to put extra men in own half. They just need to trust their defensive line and play their natural game in their attacking half.
It will cost Spain and Germany going forward in the tournament. They are favourite, but their finishing ability does create doubts and coaching staff of their opponents will notice that. A good build-up can’t win a game unless and until they play better football in the final third. It only grows frustration when you come so close to goal and your forwards waste them with a poor touch.