MOSCOW (Reuters) - Germany’s phenomenal World Cup consistency means the reigning world champions have not been eliminated in the tournament’s group stage for the last 80 years - but that could all change on Saturday.
In every World Cup since 1938 Germany have made it past the group stage. They did not compete at the 1950 tournament as they were banned from entering following the World War Two.
Not even five-times champions Brazil can boast such a record, with the South Americans having failed to get out of their group in 1966.
But when coach Joachim Loew’s men take to the pitch against Sweden for their second Group F match in Sochi’s Fisht Stadium they will be painfully aware that defeat by the Scandinavians could mean the end of one of the longest World Cup records.
A shock 1-0 opening loss to Mexico means they probably need at least four points from their remaining group matches against Sweden and South Korea if they are to progress.
Tepid and lacklustre against Mexico, the Germans showed none of the strengths that carried them to the 2014 title and to victory in each of their 10 World Cup qualifiers.
Instead, they were easy prey for their opponents who outsmarted them with a series of quick breaks.
Now they have their backs to the wall and German fans are bracing for what could be their biggest shock in decades.
“We have two important tasks to complete and we have to win both games,” Germany’s Thomas Mueller said. “We want nothing else but success.”
“It does not matter who will play, every player has to do what they are asked to in their positions and if they stick to that everyone can set up or score goals.”
For the Swedes, however, it is a golden opportunity to advance, knowing their opponents are under extreme pressure.
“We will do everything we can, and be as smart as we can with the ball and without it,” said Sweden winger Emil Forsberg, whose team won their opener 1-0 against South Korea.
A draw could also be enough for Sweden but for the Germans only three points will do.
“The longer the match goes, the more desperate they will get if they haven’t scored,” Forsberg said.
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Ed Osmond