The German team has departed for the World Cup, but an otherwise happy bon voyage has been overshadowed by disappointing injury news. Marco Reus became the latest to miss out on the plane to Brazil.
The Germans no doubt felt like something was missing when they departed from Frankfurt airport on Saturday night, bound for the team's specially-built seaside training camp in the state of Bahia.
By all accounts, it's been a disappointing several weeks for German fans. Players have been dropping like flies of late, with
Marco Reus the latest to go down injured. The Borussia Dortmund star attacker suffered a partial ligament tear above his left ankle in Sunday's friendly against Armenia, overshadowing what was otherwise a dominant display from the Germans
in their 6-1 victory. He was replaced in the squad by Sampdoria defender Shkodran Mustafi.
Injuries also kept Lars Bender and Marcel Schmelzer from heading to the tournament, while striker Mario Gomez was omitted from the 30-man provisional squad entirely after struggling for fitness all season at Fiorentina.
Questions remain about the condition of number one goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who did not participate in either of Germany's World Cup warm-up friendlies after picking up a knock in the German Cup final. Captain Philipp Lahm and his Bayern Munich teammate Bastian Schweinsteiger, meanwhile, are also lacking in fitness. Both played against Armenia, but neither went more than 45 minutes.
Sami Khedira, who suffered a bad knee injury late last year, appears to be looking much closer to full fitness - but even he has yet to play more than hour of competitive football at a time since returning to the pitch.
underwhelming 2-2 draw with Cameroon last Sunday, the resounding win over Armenia looked like just the kind of positive press the Germans needed before departing for Brazil. Mario Götze scored twice in 15 minutes, Miroslav Klose was back to his old scoring ways just before a major tournament (a familiar tale) and Germany's midfield creativity was firing on all cylinders.
But then came the news that Reus - the attacking super-talent who was supposed to make the Brazil World Cup his own - would miss the tournament. This, coupled with Germany's other missing faces and an Austria training camp that was rife with
distractions, has left many fans somewhat less confident about their country's World Cup chances.
But if there's anything this particular German team has going for it, it's depth. If Schweinsteiger, Khedira and Lahm can stay healthy, the central midfield woes might not be so woeful after all. And while Reus' absence is deeply disappointing, an attacking midfield that includes Andre Schürrle, Thomas Müller, Mario Götze, Mesut Özil, Lukas Podolski and Julian Draxler is still a formidable force.
Germany now have just a week of final preparations before they open their Group G campaign against Portugal on June 16. It's finally all beginning and Brazil is the chance for coach Joachim Löw to grab his first title in eight years at the helm. The odds are stacked against them, but then again, World Cups are made for surprises.