As Germany and France head into Friday's epic World Cup showdown in Brazil, expectations are sky-high for Die Mannschaft.
ESPN ranked the Germans the third-best team heading into the tournament (behind Brazil and Spain), while the French were in the No. 12 spot, but as of Thursday afternoon the network's daily rankings had the Germans only 6 percent more likely than the French to win the match.
That might be a shockingly slim margin given Germany's prodigious talent, but a new twist in this highly unpredictable World Cup suggests that even those odds may be very generous.
The squad's coach, Joachim Low, disclosed on Thursday that seven of his players were exhibiting flu-like symptoms. Low didn't say which players were ill, but he said most of them had "throat aches," according to the BBC.
"It's too early to make any final decisions about the lineup," Low said. "It's not all that bad at the moment. I don't want to dramatize it."
He may not want to make a mountain out of what may turn out to be a molehill, but German fans are surely nervous that their team could be at less than full strength come their biggest match thus far in the tournament.
German stars Mats Hummels and Christoph Kramer were reportedly sick earlier this week, and Hummels missed the team's match against Algeria on June 30. The Germans ended up winning 2-1, but not without an overtime scare that provoked intense criticism of the European giants, who were expected to cruise to victory in the lopsided matchup. Hummels has been kept isolated from his teammates in hopes of keeping them from falling sick, but it appears that may not have been enough.
Low has said that dynamic weather changes as well as the grueling travel schedule may have contributed to the team's illnesses, but those excuses won't be enough if the Germans can't make it past the French on Friday.
In 1997, Michael Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to a big Game 5 win in the NBA championship while suffering from a nasty bout of the flu. German fans have to hope that their guys will be like Mike.