Spotlight on the main contenders: Germany

Countdown to South Africa: 94 days to go

There is tension in the German camp, as was highlighted when Lukas Podolski responded aggressively to a critical off-camera comment by a TV reporter after last week's home defeat to Argentina, asking him to 'Bring it on'.

Germany qualified impressively, hastening Guus Hiddink's departure from Moscow with home and away wins against Russia, but the concerns highlighted by England's victory in Berlin last season were evident even before last week. Negotiations over Joachim Löw's contract renewal broke down prior to the match. It now seems the coach's future will be decided after South Africa, which is hardly a vote of confidence.

Then came the match in which Germany were largely outplayed and rarely threatened. The main selection issue is in goal. Before the match René Adler was told by goalkeeping coach Andreas Köpke that the jersey was "his to lose"; he promptly did his best to do just that, being embarrassed by Gonzalo Higuain's goal and making other errors.

In attack, concerns remain over the lack of credible alternatives to Miroslav Klose and Podolski. Other issues are the capacity of young star Mesut Ozil to step up in time for the summer – the 21-year-old Werder Bremen midfielder has scored only 7 League goals this season – and the form of Michael Ballack, whose role Löw had to defend last week.

Before the match Löw said: "We are on target." Afterwards he said: "We have got to make improvements in every part of the team." Nevertheless, such is Germany's tournament pedigree it would be unwise to write them off.

World Ranking: 5

World Cup Group: D (with Australia, Serbia & Ghana)

When might they meet England? Second round

Odds: 14/1 (BetFred)

Pedigree: Winners 1954, 1974, 1990

Last five results: Azerbaijan W 4-0 (h), Russia W 1-0 (a), Finland D 1-1 (h), Ivory Coast D 2-2 (h), Argentina L 1-0 (h)

Upcoming fixtures: Malta (h, 13 May), Hungary (a, 29 May), Bosnia-Herzegovina (h, 2 June).

Key player: Michael Ballack

One to watch: Mesut Ozil

Fan file: Noted for vociferous chanting, flag-waving and painted faces.

Tomorrow: Italy

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Life and Style
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
science
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
tv
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders were pictured embracing in 2012
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried