Su­per-con­fi­dent Hum­mels

World cham­pion Mats Hum­mels ex­udes con­fi­dence – and the bad news for Ger­many’s ri­vals is that they’re mas­sively mo­ti­vated to be­come the third na­tion to re­tain the tro­phy

FourFourTwo - - CONTENTS - In­ter­view An­drew Mur­ray Por­trait Ste­fan Hob­maier

Two things pop­u­late the in­ter­net: cat memes and how-to guides that will sup­pos­edly boost your self-con­fi­dence and help you make de­ci­sions, set goals and chal­lenge your­self. Af­ter all, dogs don’t chase parked cars, do they? You don’t need to bother with any of them. Just stand in a room with Mats Hum­mels. From the mo­ment the Bay­ern Mu­nich and Ger­many de­fender walks into FFT’S tem­po­rary stu­dio deep in the bow­els of the Al­lianz Arena, he ex­udes the sense of serene self-as­sur­ance you’d ex­pect from a world cham­pion who has re­cently won yet an­other Bun­desliga ti­tle.

But Hum­mels is no ar­ro­gant prima donna, nor is his de­meanour an over­com­pen­sat­ing façade. The cen­tre-back’s got an aura, a healthy, al­most in­fec­tious con­fi­dence. “It’s so im­por­tant,” he tells us, shortly be­fore pos­ing for the FFT cam­eras. “If a team has any doubts about its qual­ity or per­for­mance, it will show out on the pitch and that team au­to­mat­i­cally be­comes weaker. We have re­ally con­fi­dent play­ers, so I don’t think this will ever change, es­pe­cially go­ing into the World Cup.”

The hold­ers have never been ones for self-doubt. Hum­mels plays at the heart of a near all-bay­ern Ger­many back five, as­sum­ing Manuel Neuer wins his fit­ness race, and fur­ther for­ward they’re so good that Leroy Sané may not even start.

In fact, they only thing Hum­mels is wor­ried about is how he’ll fill his time be­tween games. “Well, I’ve got through all of Game of Thrones, but I’m sure I’ll find some­thing else to watch!” he laughs. “As soon as a match is over, I’m done with it.”

Spo­ken like a truly con­fi­dent win­ner, ready to do it all over again…

What’s your first World Cup me­mory? The first thing I re­mem­ber was 1994, when Bul­garia beat Ger­many with Yordan Letchkov’s header. I re­mem­ber that goal vividly. What I al­ways come back to is France 98 and our quar­ter-fi­nal de­feat to Croa­tia. I watched that match with some Croa­t­ian friends and thought, ‘This will be fine, we’ll beat Croa­tia’. Ger­many lost 3-0. We had a sleep­over at their house af­ter­wards, so that was a re­ally tough night for me. [Laughs] I wouldn’t make that mis­take ever again!

How would you rate Ger­many’s chances in Rus­sia? We’re one of the five or six na­tions who are most likely to win it, but we all know how dif­fi­cult the World Cup is. We have great qual­ity, a good coach and good men­tal­ity. We know it’s doable, but many things have to come to­gether to win a World Cup.

Who are those four or five other teams? To be­gin with, Spain. We played them re­cently and they were bril­liant, then a few days later they beat Ar­gentina 6-1. France are so strong. Brazil, of course. Then there’s Ar­gentina – any team with Lionel Messi in their squad has to have a chance. Maybe Eng­land, too. These would be my top na­tions, but you saw with Por­tu­gal win­ning the Euros that any­thing can hap­pen. Just like Greece in 2004.

How do you deal with the pres­sure of be­ing favourites? I don’t think it’s some­thing we have to deal with, be­cause as soon as the tour­na­ment be­gins our goal is to win the World Cup. The mind­set stays the same. We know what it’s like to go deep into a tour­na­ment.

What would it mean to Ger­many to re­tain the World Cup? It would mean a lot to the whole coun­try. Only two coun­tries – Italy in 1938 and Brazil in 1962 – have ever won back-to-back World Cups, and it’s a mas­sive mo­ti­va­tion for us to do it.

You take on Mex­ico, Swe­den and South Korea in the group stage. What do you make of those three? It’s a good group be­cause there’s no team who’s guar­an­teed to fin­ish bot­tom. We are the top seeds and know we’ll have to win it be­cause of our qual­ity. We’ve faced Swe­den a lot and Mex­ico dur­ing last year’s Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup, but I don’t think I’ve played South Korea.

How does Joachim Löw get the best from his play­ers? First of all with his tac­tics and train­ing. He ex­pects a lot from us, and in these tour­na­ments he knows how to han­dle play­ers to keep them fo­cused. We’ll spend seven weeks to­gether if we make it to the fi­nal, so it’s hard to stay mo­ti­vated the whole time. He knows how to do it.

Does your Bay­ern Mu­nich re­la­tion­ship with Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng and Joshua Kim­mich help the na­tional team? It’s a big help. There are cer­tain things that hap­pen in a game with­out you even think­ing about it. It be­comes sec­ond na­ture. They’ll re­act to a sit­u­a­tion and you know what they want to do. Even be­fore I joined Bay­ern we had played to­gether in the na­tional team, so we’ve been do­ing this for a long time.

You cap­tained Ger­many in last Novem­ber’s friendly with Eng­land. How proud a mo­ment was that? It was the first time I’d started a game as the cap­tain and was a huge hon­our. It’s some­thing spe­cial for any Ger­man player, es­pe­cially when it comes against Eng­land at Wem­b­ley.

How did it feel to beat Brazil 7-1 in 2014? It felt strange. At half-time, with the score 5-0, we said, ‘Don’t try to hu­mil­i­ate them be­cause we will lose our con­cen­tra­tion’. We wanted to main­tain fo­cus, as even a five-goal lead can get blown away in foot­ball – it’s pos­si­ble. For us it was spe­cial, but I know what de­feats feel like so I know how Brazil were feel­ing.

How dif­fer­ent is a World Cup fi­nal to any other game? The whole world is watch­ing – you feel that. They’re the games I’ve spent my life whole dream­ing about. You get so ner­vous be­fore the game, but once you kick off it be­comes a great test for your mind not to go crazy, as much as any­thing.

What was it like hold­ing the tro­phy for the first time? Amaz­ing. I had seen Lothar Matthaus, Franz Beck­en­bauer and oth­ers lift­ing it and even held a replica, but noth­ing can pre­pare you for hold­ing the orig­i­nal – it’s in­cred­i­ble.

Mats Hum­mels wears adi­das Foot­ball Preda­tor 18+ for pure con­trol. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit adi­

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