As we countdown to Russia 2018, we take a look at all 32 teams and suggest a reason to back them. With 28 days to the big kick-off it is the turn of Germany.


"Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win".

Gary Lineker's famous maxim on the English attitude towards German efficiency at the big tournaments is all encapsulating even though Brazil have won football's greatest event more times.

Four victories, eight finals, 13 semi-finals and 15 quarter-finals underlines Germany's impressive World Cup stats. You can only look on and admire.

Even ordinary sides - West Germany (1982) and the unified nation (2002) managed to get to finals. On the latter, England no doubt looked on wondering how that came to pass after a team managed by Sven-Göran Eriksson crushed Deutschland 5-1 in Munich some nine months earlier.

That was then. This is now. Joachim Löw's Germany are currently the top ranked side in the world and head to Russia chasing back-to-back titles. Qualification was relatively straightforward, but when is it not. 

Low's troops face Mexico in their opening Group F game in the Luzhniki Stadium on 18 June. Five days later, they travel to Sochi to take on Sweden, while they finish up against Korea Republic in Kazan on 27 June. It's a section they should comfortably top.

They say that continuity makes for a successful management ticket and in coach Löw, Germany have a man who has been at the helm since 2006.

Like so many able managers, Löw's days as a player were modest to say the least, with most of it spent at Bundesliga 2 outfit SC Freiburg.

On retiring in 1995, his first coaching post was with Stuttgart and in 1997 he guided the club to German Cup success. After that came stints at Fenerbache, Karlsruhe, Adanaspor and Innsbruck.

And then came the partnership with Jürgen Klinsmann. Both men took their coaching badges at the same time and when Klinsmann became Germany manager in 2004, it was Löw he turned to as his assistant. Together they worked to make the Germans more attractive on the eye, rather than the image of well-oiled machine that would, in a not so pretty way, grind out results. 

As hosts, Deutschland got to the semi-finals of the 2006 World Cup. After that tournament, Löw stepped up to take the top job. At Euro 2008, the 58-year-old guided his troops to the final, with Spain and Fernando Torres proving too good in Vienna. After semi-final heartache at World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012, German promise was realised when they reigned supreme in Rio four years ago. At Euro 2016, another last-four reverse was the outcome.

And then last summer, a German 'B' side for good measure claimed the Confederations Cup. The bar has remained high. Löw is the most successful coach in German history and he is set to remain in charge until 2022.

Beyond football, there is a man who likes to chill at home with a "a nice plate of spaghetti and a glass of red wine while watching a good thriller."

"At home I want to feel in harmony; no extremes, nothing hectic," he added when speaking to Die Welt magazine.

Löw also revealed that he has a sweet tooth. "I don't think anyone eats as many sweets as I do: cakes, chocolate, ice cream, desserts," he revealed.

Will it be a case of the sweet smell of success again for Löw and the likes of Werner, Hummels, Muller, Kroos, Kimmich and Boateng in Moscow on 15 July?

Goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona), Kevin Trapp (Paris St-Germain)

Defenders: Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich), Matthias Ginter (Borussia Monchengladbach), Jonas Hector (Cologne), Mats Hummels (Bayern Munich), Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich), Marvin Plattenhardt (Hertha Berlin), Antonio Rudiger (Chelsea), Niklas Sule (Bayern Munich)

Midfielders: Julian Brandt (Bayer Leverkusen), Julian Draxler (Paris St-Germain), Leon Goretska (Schalke), Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City), Sami Khedira (Juventus), Toni Kroos (Real Madrid), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal), Sebastian Rudy (Bayern Munich)

Forwards: Mario Gomez (Stuttgart), Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich), Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund), Timo Werner (RB Leipzig)

You can follow the FIFA World Cup from 14 June with RTÉ. Live blogs of every game on RTÉ.ie and the News Now App, with 56 games live on RTÉ television and all 64 games available on the RTÉ Player.