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2018 World Cup preview: Germany

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Getting to know Germany: The reigning World Cup champions head into Russia as one of the clear favorites to hoist yet another title, despite having a significantly different squad than four years ago. Joachim Low and his side do benefit from getting star goalkeeper Manuel Neuer back just in time for the tournament, which gives Germany extra assurance in front of net.

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Although familiar faces like Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose are long gone from the international picture, Germany boasts one of the fiercest attacks in the competition with Red Bull Leipzig striker Timo Werner and Bayern Munich’s Thomas Muller, while relying on an experienced center back pairing of Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng to keep opposition at bay as the Germans aim to capture their fifth World Cup victory.

For more on Germany’s history, click this link.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

What group are they in? Low and Co. will be paired with Mexico, South Korea and Sweden in Group F, as the Germans will be expected to be heavy favorites to not only top the group but do so in style.


Game schedule – Group F – Full 2018 World Cup schedule, here

Sunday, June 17: Germany v Mexico, Moscow 11 am, ET

Saturday, June 23: Germany v Sweden, Sochi  2 pm, ET

Wednesday, June 27: South Korea v Germany, Kazan 10 am, ET


Projected lineup (4-2-3-1)Check out the 23-man squad list in full

Neuer

Kimmich ——– Boateng ——- Hummels ———- Hector

Kroos ——- Khedira

Muller —- Ozil —- Draxler

Werner


Star player: Timo Werner — For all the success that Germany has had throughout the years, have they ever had a full-on superstar in their squad? The beauty of this team is they have an embarrassment of riches in a variety of positions, however, Werner is the guy to watch in this tournament. Despite only boasting 13 caps heading into the World Cup, Werner has seven international goals and will be expected to build on that goal total in Russia.


Manager: Joachim Low — In terms of managers at the World Cup, there’s Joachim Low and then there’s everybody else. That’s not a slight on the other 31 coaches heading to the World Cup, but Low’s track record speaks for itself. Since taking over Germany, the worst the country has finished at a major competition is fourth. That encompasses World Cups, European Championships and the Confederations Cup, which Germany ironically enough won last summer with many of its stars in preparation for Russia.


Secret weapon: Marco Reus — When healthy Reus is arguably one of the top attackers in the Bundesliga. The problem recently for the Borussia Dortmund man is that he hasn’t be able to keep a clean bill of health. Heading into Russia, Reus is fit though, making him a viable option for Low to turn to off the bench.

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Prediction: Between Germany’s track record at major competitions and the current squad Low has coming into this summer, the European giants are on pace for yet another lengthy run at the World Cup. They should breeze through Group F, before benefiting from being on the “easier” side of the bracket if everything holds true. A semifinals clash with Spain appears very likely, which could shape up to be the match of the tournament, and potentially decide the de facto World Cup champion.

Pogba: Brighton was “hungrier” than Man Utd

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Jose Mourinho said Manchester United was “really, really, really down” at halftime of their 3-2 loss to Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday.

[ MORE: Recap | Mourinho reacts ]

His captain, Paul Pogba, didn’t let those vibes temper his efforts to turn the game around, though he admits his Red Devils weren’t up to the challenge.

“They had more hunger than us and the result is the right one for them,” he said.

Pogba said he was disappointed in his performance, and the team’s mentality.

From the BBC:

“I will always try. I know I lost a lot of balls which shouldn’t happen. I tried, I kept pushing, that’s my personality. I tried to help the team as much as possible. It didn’t happen today.

“Brighton prepared the game very well. Maybe we didn’t have the attitude to break them, to kill them when we had to kill them and to go through the lines. That’s a lesson we have to keep in mind.”

There have been warning bells ringing at Manchester United for some time, and Old Trafford will be a nightmare if the Red Devils don’t answer them against Spurs a week from Monday.

Pogba was far from the main problem on Sunday. He set Romelu Lukaku up for what could’ve easily been the opening goal of the game — and usually would be — with a delightful through ball, and influenced the game on several occasions aside from his converted penalty kick.

But with Fred struggling and Nemanja Matic absent, Pogba was needed more in his 2017-18 role and couldn’t dominate defensively. That’s a tall ask down 3-1, but also

Mourinho: Man Utd was “really, really, really down” at halftime

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Many could hardly wait for Jose Mourinho to take the microphone after one of Manchester United’s worst performances under the mercurial manager.

Unless they were hoping for a small jab at referee Kevin Friend for not letting United send one more ball into the fray, Mourinho was a bit of a letdown by design.

[ MORE: Match recap | Pogba reacts ]

“When I speak of individual performances you don’t accept it,” Mourinho said on NBCSN. “The players, the pundits are very critical when I’m asked to go in that direction. I’ll be happy to analyze my players’ performances when they are good. … When I cannot do that, don’t push me to the other side.”

Mourinho also rejected any comment on United’s inability to purchase one of his center back targets.

“The window opens on the first of January. It’s closed.”

What he did say was that Brighton did not let United off the hook for a number of mistakes in the defeat at the Amex Stadium.

And he did not have a clue United would have a bad day.

“I was not expecting obviously big mistakes because we are not speaking about small mistakes,” he said. “Big mistakes, we made big mistakes and we were punished by that. There’s a normal tendency to lose a little bit of the confidence and the direction of the game plan.”

“You go into halftime where the players were really, really, really down.”

United and Mourinho could be in a huge hole if after their first Top Four test of the season next week, when the Red Devils host Spurs on Monday, Aug. 27.

With all due respect to crafty Brighton veteran forward Glenn Murray, Harry Kane would’ve had a field day on Sunday.

Manchester United baffled by Brighton

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Brighton and Hove Albion stunned a haphazard Manchester United 3-2 at the Amex Stadium on Sunday.

The win puts both teams at 1-1, with the Gulls getting goals from Glenn Murray, Pascal Gross, and Shane Duffy. Romelu Lukaku scored for United in the first half, before Marouane Fellaini drew a Paul Pogba-converted penalty.

Manchester United next meets Spurs at Old Trafford, while Brighton travels to Liverpool.

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Pogba played Romelu Lukaku through on goal, but the Belgian’s hard low strike zipped wide of the near post.

It was mostly United in the first 20 minutes before Anthony Knockaert raced onto a long ball and spun a 20-yard shot wide of David De Gea‘s far post.

Brighton did indeed take the lead through Murray, who cut in front of Victor Lindelof to flick a pretty ball from Solly March beyond De Gea.

Duffy then settled a cross in the heart of the United box before doubling Brighton’s advantage, and it would be a big dig for United.

Lukaku made it 2-1, rewarding for a fine first half-hour with a knockdown header from Luke Shaw‘s partially blocked shot.

But a poor pass from David De Gea led to Eric Bailly‘s sliding challenge on Pascal Gross. He converted the penalty to make it 3-1.

Mourinho completed his substitutions early, taking off Anthony Martial, Andreas Pereira, and Juan Mata for Marcus Rashford (HT), Jesse Lingard (HT), and Marouane Fellaini (60′).

United snapped to life with 16 minutes to play, Paul Pogba forcing Mathew Ryan into a flying parry.

But only a Fellaini-won penalty arrived deep in stoppage time, with Pogba converting his effort.

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[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Murray scores beauty as Brighton thumping Man Utd at half (video)

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Might we have an upset on our hands at the Amex Stadium?

Manchester United trails Brighton and Hove Albion on a deft goal from Glenn Murray against the run of play and a quickfire addition to the score line from Shane Duffy.

[ STREAM: Brighton-Man Utd ]

It was mostly United in the first 20 minutes before Anthony Knockaert raced onto a long ball and spun a 20-yard shot wide of David De Gea‘s far post.

Brighton did indeed take the lead through Murray, who cut in front of Victor Lindelof to flick a pretty ball from Solly March beyond De Gea.

Duffy then settled a cross in the heart of the United box before doubling Brighton’s advantage.

Lukaku answered with a headed goal, but a poor pass from David De Gea led to Eric Bailly‘s sliding challenge on Pascal Gross. He converted the penalty to make it 3-1.