Quest for the fifth star after turbulent preparations

Amol Gokhale
Saturday, 16 June 2018

Joachim Loew's Germany begin defence of their title against Mexico in Luzhniki Stadium

Moscow: There's a famous story that Germans tell, of how they ran out of team jerseys after they won the semi-finals against Brazil 7-1. The manufacturers did not print the new jerseys and said that they will print the new ones only after the fourth star is added on the shirt.

What they meant was, new jerseys will hit the stores only after the World Cup triumph and 'Die Mannschaft' eventually added the fourth star at the Maracana by beating Argentina 1-0, courtesy, goal by Mario Goetze.

On Sunday, they begin their quest to add the fifth star to their jersey, a task head coach Joachim Loew describes as the 'most difficult one', after having a turbulent run-up to the tournament.

The team was engulfed by a series of off-field issues beginning with the political scandal involving star players Mesut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan, who posed for the picture with Turkey President Tayyip Erdoğan, causing an uproar in Germany.

When the preliminary squad was announced, 2014 World Cup's hero Mario Goetze wasn't included in the team, owing to his poor form this season. It didn't raise eyebrows but the omission of in-form winger Leroy Sane from the final 23, did ruffle some feathers. The doubts over the fitness of team captain and keeper Manuel Neuer were always there but Bayern Munich man recovered in time to make the cut.

As Loew's men started their preparations for the World Cup with friendlies, it wasn't the German side that people were used to seeing. They slumped to a 2-1 defeat to Austria and were sloppy and unimpressive in a 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia. The constant jeers for Gundogan and Ozil haven't helped the team's cause either.

Ozil boost for Loew

A player who wears the No. 10 jersey in the side, always gets that shirt for his ability to affect the game. In football, it was the jersey made famous by Pele and goes to the best players in the team.

The 29-year old, Ozil, inherited the jersey from Lucas Podolski and it is the playing position he prefers as well, from where he can make the most impact on a match.

On the eve of the match, Loew had a big injury boost about his No. 10 as the playmaker had managed to shake off the minor knee knock he had received in the warm-up game against Austria

“All players are fit. Mesut Ozil this week completed two additional training sessions and can play,” Loew said. “But I will discuss the final line-up with the team this evening. There are two, three ideas in my head for the line-up.” 

Julien Draxler, who also addressed the media, discarded the that his team-mate is in bad mood ahead of the big match. “A lot has been written about Mesut, and his mood. But that is not all true. He is in good spirits, makes jokes. The mood is good and he cannot wait for the tournament to start,” he added.

He also hoped that Arsenal man will be there for the team as they prepare for their match against Mexico.

“He has skills not many possess and he is our most creative player. He will be there when needed and will play a good tournament," he said.

Last year, when Germany played Mexico in the Confederations Cup, they brushed past their opponents 4-1 and has a record of not losing their opening match in the World Cup. If one goes by the record books, it is a straightforward game for Germany per say.

As the sponsorship advertisement of German national team reads, 'Best neVer Rest' with letter 'v' as 'V' (Roman Five), Loew's men will be relentless, the quest for the fifth star begins.

Related News