Lothar Matthaus on team spirit

The 1990 World Cup win­ner says Ger­many don’t have a Messi or Ron­aldo but their team spirit can make the dif­fer­ence in Rus­sia, where he wouldn’t fancy fac­ing a ‘tough’ Eng­land side

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When Ger­many won the World Cup four years ago, we didn’t have the top scorer at the tour­na­ment, or the best player. But we had the right men­tal­ity and we had the best team.

At a World Cup, team spirit can make a big dif­fer­ence. I played in five World Cups and I saw ex­actly when we had the best at­mos­phere in the squad. It was in 1990, when we won it. At other tour­na­ments, we didn’t al­ways have a good at­mos­phere – there were too many pri­vate in­ter­ests, and pri­vate in­ter­ests can dis­turb things. All the small things make a dif­fer­ence.

In 1994, new play­ers came into the squad, such as Matthias Sam­mer, Ste­fan Ef­fen­berg and Mario Basler – dif­fi­cult char­ac­ters that a strong coach and a good coach can deal with. But in Berti Vogts, we didn’t have a coach like Franz Beck­en­bauer any more.

At this sum­mer’s World Cup, I think Ger­many will have the best team spirit of any coun­try. We don’t have a Lionel Messi or a Cris­tiano Ron­aldo, but we have ex­cel­lent play­ers. Seven of those who won the last World Cup in Brazil – Manuel Neuer, Mats Hum­mels, Jerome Boateng, Sami Khedira, Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos and Me­sut Ozil – will all play if fit. Philipp Lahm, Bas­tian Sch­we­in­steiger and Miroslav Klose have fin­ished, but we have some young tal­ent like Joshua Kim­mich, Jonas Hec­tor and Timo Werner, who’s a great player. He works for the team, he scores goals and gets as­sists – he can be the dif­fer­ence. It’s not easy to win the World Cup – the small­est mis­take can knock you out – but Ger­many have all the qual­ity and ex­pe­ri­ence to win it again.

We also have a very good coach in Joachim Löw, who has been work­ing with the team for 14 years – 12 of them as coach. Ev­ery player in the squad was made into a na­tional team player by Jogi, so they will never go against him. They will al­ways re­spect his de­ci­sions. We re­spected Beck­en­bauer in the same way in 1990. Sure, some play­ers weren’t happy if they had to sit on the bench, but we had lead­ers in the team who would make sure there was al­ways re­spect. This squad has sev­eral lead­ers who’ll do the same: Muller, Hum­mels, Neuer, Khedira and Kroos.

We’re not de­pen­dent on one player, like Ar­gentina de­pend on Messi. I’ve al­ways been a fan of Messi – his first game for Ar­gentina was in 2005, against the Hun­gary team I was coach­ing. He came on in the 64th minute, and within 40 sec­onds he got a red card for putting an el­bow in the face of one of my play­ers who was hold­ing his shirt. But just in those 40 sec­onds he showed me his qual­ity and abil­ity to drib­ble with the ball. He was only 18, but in 40 sec­onds he showed ev­ery­one, ‘Hey, I’m a na­tional team player and I can make the dif­fer­ence’.

Messi has the qual­ity, but can he do what Diego Maradona did in 1986? I don’t think so. He didn’t do it at the last three World Cups, so why now? Ar­gentina can only win the World Cup if Messi is play­ing ev­ery game at the high­est level. When Barcelona lost to Roma re­cently, you saw what can hap­pen when things aren’t work­ing for him. The team doesn’t func­tion.

Ger­many aren’t un­der pres­sure like some other coun­tries – like Brazil or Spain. The Ger­man fans be­lieve in the play­ers and they ex­pect the team to do well, es­pe­cially af­ter 2014. But they are not so crazy like the Brazil­ian fans, who only want the ti­tle. There’s a pos­si­bil­ity that Ger­many could face Eng­land in the quar­ter-fi­nals, and ac­tu­ally I would not like that – I’d pre­fer to play another team. That maybe sounds crazy, but I like this Eng­land team. They’re tough. Sure, maybe they’re not as tough as France, but on a good day Eng­land can win against any­one. It would be a very hard game for us. Eng­land also have Harry Kane, who has ev­ery­thing a striker needs – not only is he a top scorer, he works hard for the team. Kane is half a step ahead of Werner at the mo­ment, al­though Timo is two years younger.

The Eng­land play­ers have ben­e­fited from the high level of the Pre­mier League, and work­ing with coaches like Pep Guardi­ola and Jur­gen Klopp. But they have one mi­nus: a long sea­son in the Pre­mier League, with no win­ter break. The body can­not re­cover. The quar­ter-fi­nals or semi-fi­nals would be a good re­sult. Af­ter the very good re­sults that Eng­land’s youth teams have had re­cently, they will do even bet­ter in the fu­ture.

“TIMO WERNER IS A GREAT PLAYER. HE WORKS FOR THE TEAM, HE SCORES AND GETS AS­SISTS – BUT HARRY KANE IS HALF A STEP AHEAD AT THE MO­MENT”

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