It seems faintly ridiculous, but Germany need to win their next game or they will be dumped out of World Cup 2018 at the group stage.
If they draw against Sweden, for instance, that would leave them on one point after two games; the Swedes would move on to four, and Mexico could well progress to six if they can take down South Korea.
So yes, you could argue that the Germans are drinking their steins of beer at the last chance saloon.
But how have they gotten into this position? It’s quite simple: they were completely outfoxed by Mexico in their Group F opener.
In a unusual twist, the Germans produced a wholly undisciplined display, with no shape to their team and the full backs bombing on at every turn.
The Mexicans were savvy; they left wide man Hirving Lozano forward at all times, so that when the Germany attack broke down he was clear to advance into the space left by right back Joshua Kimmich, whose sat nav must have been broken as he found himself everywhere on the pitch apart from where he should have been?
So is this is a sign that the Germans are in decay? Of course not; it can take a while to bed into a major tournament, as Brazil and Argentina have proven thus far.
But they have to beat Sweden on Saturday….and that puts them under huge pressure. Can they get the job done?
Back to Basics
There is no way that Joachim Low, the studious Germany head coach, will set up his side in a way that is so easy to break down once again.
The reins will be put on Kimmich and Marvin Plattenhardt – they will provide attacking width, sure, but they won’t leave gaps the size of the Channel Tunnel behind them when they charge forward.
Sami Khedira will need to play better in the midfield pivot role, while Toni Kroos will be expected to get closer to Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller and co so that they can play their intricate triangles before slipping Timo Werner in on goal.
Expect a narrower Germany against the Swedes, with Julian Draxler drifting inside from the left and Muller playing almost up alongside Werner on the last line of defence.
We are convinced that the Germans will be somewhere near their best in Sochi, and that will make a mockery of their match odds of 1/2.
Swedes Set to Be Mashed to a Pulp?
Sweden beat South Korea 1-0 in their opening match, and while they fashioned a few decent chances they didn’t exactly look like world (champion) beaters.
In the end, they needed a penalty from skipper Andreas Granqvist after VAR confirmed a foul in the penalty area, and while they were able to carve open the Koreans on a number of occasions their lack of an obvious goalscorer – with Zlatan Ibrahimovic sunning himself in Los Angeles – was clear for all to see.
Marcus Berg just isn’t an elite-level striker, and in tight World Cup matches the need to take the rare chances that come your way is vital. Being profligate against South Korea is one thing, but failing to make the Germans pay is quite another.
It’s hard to really like sides who insist on playing a flat 4-4-2 system in this day and age too, and you wonder how a failry immobile midfield pair of Seb Larsson and Albin Ekdal will cope with the interchanges and movement of the Germany attacking line.
By installing Germany as a 1/2 favourite, the bookmakers are implying they have a 50% chance of winning this match.
Does that seem right to you? Imagine if you were forced to pick a team to win or your favourite childhood cuddly toy was put in a food processor; you’d pick Germany, right?
The bookies are wrong on this one, and as is often the case they have overacted to a single poor performance from the Germans – as small a sample size as you can get.
Instead, think about the players Germany has at their disposal, their pedigree and their ability to win when the pressure is on.
And then think of the Sweden squad; plying their trade in the Championship, in the Middle East or, worst still, the Scottish Premiership.
Sweden may just shock us on Saturday, but there is no way that Germany have as little as 50% chance of winning this match. Make the bookmakers pay in the most satisfying way possible.