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
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”