Germany out to make mark against Portugal
Coach Joachim Loew says consistency is the key to Germany living up to their reputation as a tournament team when they kick-off their Brazil 2014 campaign against Portugal on Monday.
Loew's side has reached at least the semi-finals of the last four major tournaments and expectations are growing in Germany, 24 years after their last World Cup win.
Germany's tough Group G campaign starts with Cristiano Ronaldo-led Portugal at Salvador's Arena Fonte Nova before facing Ghana and the United States.
Loew's young team swept aside England and Argentina en route to finishing third in South Africa in 2010.
Four years on, question marks over the defence and fitness of stars such as Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger leaves the Germans with much to prove in Brazil.
Loew said his side need to start with a convincing win over Portugal, then keep a consistent level if they are to reach the final in Rio de Janeiro on July 13.
"This is the number two (Germany) against the number four (Portugal) ranked side in the world," said Loew.
"If we take our chances and are consistent, I believe we have the chance to go far in the tournament.
"Four or five good performances aren't enough to win the title, we must play well over the entire tournament and avoid injuries, for which you need a pinch of luck.
"We want to reach the final and I believe we have a good balance of experience and youth."
In South Africa, Germany's young guns won over neutral fans with fleet-footed attacking football as Thomas Mueller and Mesut Ozil announced their arrivals on the world stage.
Both are now seasoned campaigners, but Loew says the next crop such as Mario Goetze and Andre Schuerrle must prove themselves at their first World Cup.
"Our first priority here isn't to give players experience," he said.
"Lots of the younger players didn't have that many opportunities before the 2010 tournament, but guys like Mueller and Ozil seized their chance.
"It's important young, dynamic players take their chances here when they get them."
The 24-year wait since the Italy 1990 title is the longest Germany have gone between World Cup crowns since lifting the Jules Rimet trophy in 1954 in Switzerland.
World Cup fever is set to grip Germany in the coming weeks and more than a half a million people gathered at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate to watch the 2010 semi-final defeat to Spain.
Neuer said he relishes the pressure from the German public.
"Expectations rise in Germany as the tournament goes by, but as far as I am concerned, I need the pressure," he said.
"We are a country who are able to get the best out of our players at tournaments.
"We have to use the pressure and expectations from home to help stimulate our game."
But arrogance is not something which will affect the Germans against Portugal.
"They are a great team -- it's something I want to stress -- and it's not a case of swaggering through the group to and end up first," added Neuer.
After the Netherlands trounced holders Spain 5-1 in their opening Group B match, Neuer said the Germans are eager to threw down a marker of their own.
"You couldn't predict that at the start, the Dutch had a great match and certainly left their mark," said Neuer.
"We are also a team who gain momentum in tournaments and want to show that we are a dangerous team, but you can't rest on your laurels at any moment."
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