The ESPN FC crew share their thoughts on Raf Honigstein’s strongest XI for Germany at the World Cup.

Joachim Low explains Mario Gotze’s dip in form with Borussia Dortmund was the reason for why he was omitted from Germany’s World Cup roster.

Joachim Low has a deep German squad with World Cup winning experience. Ian Darke leads the discussion as to why the Germans may once again be favourites.

Here are the players that most helped Germany waltz through World Cup qualifying and who will be called on to defend their title.

Ian Darke leads the ESPN panel in predicting the 2018 World Cup winner with names of Germany, Brazil, France and England among the list.

Joachim Low remains confident over a Manuel Neuer comeback before the 2018 World Cup in Russia but added he is considering Thomas Muller or Sami Khedira to replace him as captain if he is not fit in time.

The German keeper has completed the first training sessions with the title holders since suffering recurring fractures to his foot.

“Should Neuer not make it, there’d be two candidates who have shared the job after Neuer: Sami Khedira and Thomas Muller,” Low told the paper when asked who would replace the Bayern keeper as Germany’s captain.

“Thomas is destined for that job because he has a very good relationship with every squad member. He chats with everyone, just has a very positive appearance with a good mix of ease and professionalism.”

Muller, 28, has scored 10goals at two World Cups and is only six strikes away from former Germany striker Miroslav Klose’s all-time record set with his 2-0 in the historic 7-1 against Brazil in 2014.

The Bayern attacker has won 90 caps for Germany, scoring 38 goals in total, making him the country’s 10th best goal scorer of all time.

He has four short of former captain Michael Ballack, but a long way off the Klose’s total of 71 in 137 matches.

31-year-old Khedira made his debut for Germany in September 2009. He has won 73 caps, nine less than Toni Kroos, his midfielder partner.

Germany hope that Neuer can play at the World Cup, and Low reiterated on Thursday that Germany remain confident over the captain’s chances to play at the World Cup.

“As of now, there are no problems. Not even under the work load. But should there be news problems, we have to think in another direction.”

Regardless of his lack of match practice, Germany coach Joachim Low selected Neuer as one of four keepers to go into the training camp in Italy ahead of the World Cup. While Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Bayer Leverkusen shot stopper Bernd Leno are likely to go to the World Cup, Paris Saint-Germain’s Kevin Trapp is believed to be the backup solution for Neuer.

With 2014 World Cup winners Neuer, Muller and Khedira all candidates for the captain’s armband, Mario Gotze, the scorer of the 1-0 winner in the final against Argentina, will not be in Russia.

“It wasn’t the easiest conversation with him,” Low told Bild on Wednesday.

“He achieved so much for Germany at such an young age, he scored the decisive goal in Rio. And he did that with a strong technique, it’s actually the goal of the century.

“That’s why he’s so special in everyone’s perception. We owe a lot to him.”

Throughout the last couple of years, 25-year-old Gotze struggled with injuries and illnesses, and Low said that “if he plays a strong season, the door for a national team return is always open, and Mario is aware of that.”

Stephan Uersfeld is the Germany correspondent for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @uersfeld.