Germany are the team to beat on the way to Russia - in many ways. Two defeats in 84 matches is the astounding record that current FIFA World Cup™ holders can boast in World Cup qualifiers. The four-time winners of the tournament have averaged an incredible 2.5 points and 2.96 goals per match en route to the various final phases, statistics which back up the notion, shared by fans and pundits alike, of ruthless German efficiency. When it comes to the crunch, this is a team that knows exactly what it takes to qualify.

Portugal and England are the only sides to have defeated Germany in qualifiers, and they managed to do it the hard way. In October 1985, Carlos Manuel scored the only goal of the game against a Karl-Heinz Rummenigge-led Germany in Stuttgart, while in September 2001, Oliver Kahn and Michael Ballack were powerless to prevent a 5-1 thrashing at the Olympic Stadium in Munich at the hands of arch-rivals England. Michael Owen was only 21 at the time but he wrote his name in the annals of English football that night, bagging a hat-trick.

And that is the sum total of Germany's defeats in qualifying for the FIFA World Cup – not so surprising when you consider that this is the country which has produced such legends as Fritz Walter, Uwe Seeler, Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Muller, Lothar Matthaus, Philipp Lahm and the tournament's new all-time top scorer Miroslav Klose.

Calm under pressure and mentally strong
But what are the secrets to this incredible run of success? "In the past, Germany was a successful team and that success gives impetus to the generations that follow," said Lahm in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com six years ago. “You could say that we grew up with the knowledge that Germany can always make it through to the final."

The words of the back-then still young and hungry Lahm should prove to be true again when it was himself just a bit more than a year ago when he was able to lift the FIFA World Cup trophy for the Germans' fourth time into the night sky of Rio de Janeiro. “The whole tournament just went like a dream for me! I think all of us together always took the right decisions“, Germany's 2014 captain said to FIFA.com afterwards.

It will be exciting to see on Saturday 25 July, what teams will be drawn into Germany's group in St Petersburg at the Preliminary Draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Will someone be able to become the next team to be mentioned in one breath with Portugal and England?