“With the personnel we’ve got, I think in depth we may be better than four years ago, but I don’t think the first 11 are better,” the 59-times-capped former defensive midfielder told Gulf News. “There are a few positions I’m really worried about and I’d be very surprised if Germany were able to defend the title.
“In Miroslav Klose, Philipp Lahm and Per Mertesacker, they lost 300 caps after the last World Cup. There are some talented kids coming through now, but they are yet to prove their class. We’ve seen it in the Champions League – the cream rises to the top and the World Cup is a unique tournament, sometimes people get found out there.”
Germany were the only European team to win all ten of their Russia 2018 qualifiers, scoring 43 goals and conceding just four in the process. Joachim Low’s charges also conquered last year’s FIFA Confederations Cup.
However, in their last four outings they have drawn with England, France and Spain and lost 1-0 at home to Brazil. And, despite Germany fielding under-strength teams against them, Hamann was left impressed enough to tag La Roja and A Seleção as the teams to beat in Russia – along with another surprise side.
“We played Brazil a few weeks ago and Spain were probably the better side against us,” said the 44-year-old. “You shouldn’t read too much into friendlies, but I think Spain and Brazil.
“And then the way that Argentina qualified, because they needed to beat Ecuador in the last game of South American qualifiers to get in. They went 1-0 down after two minutes and Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick and won that game.
“Sometimes when you have a close shave and qualify like that, and with it also possibly being Messi’s last World Cup, I wouldn’t rule Argentina out either.”
Germany face Mexico, Sweden and Korea Republic in Group F at Russia 2018.
Hamann was part of a Germany side that Croatia dumped out of France 1998. The former Bayern Munich and Liverpool midfielder also helped his country reach the Korea/Japan 2002 Final, where they were undone by Ronaldo.
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