Aspiring to 'most difficult feat'

Germany's Ilkay Gundogan trapping the ball during training in Moscow. Die Mannschaft are gunning to be just the third back-to-back World Cup winners in the competition's 88-year history.
Germany's Ilkay Gundogan trapping the ball during training in Moscow. Die Mannschaft are gunning to be just the third back-to-back World Cup winners in the competition's 88-year history.PHOTO: REUTERS

Germany feeling 'positive tension' as they aim to win successive titles

GROUP F

Germany v Mexico
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MOSCOW • Reigning champions Germany are feeling no pressure going into their Group F opener against Mexico today and are relishing the challenge of winning back-to-back World Cup titles.

No team since Brazil in 1962 have retained the World Cup, with Italy the only other side to win back-to-back trophies, in 1934 and 1938.

"It's the most difficult feat and history has demonstrated that, no one in 60 years has done it," Germany coach Joachim Low said yesterday. "Teams develop and change, players finish their careers and you must bring in new players which makes it the most difficult achievement."

Nine Germany players at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium were part of Germany's title-winning squad four years ago, although the likes of former captain Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Miroslav Klose are all gone.

What has almost been a constant is Germany's strong start at the Finals. They have won their last seven openers while losing just once - 2-1 to Algeria in 1982 - in 18 total appearances.

CONSTANT FLUX

Teams develop and change, players finish their careers and you must bring in new players which makes it the most difficult achievement.

JOACHIM LOW, who has been in charge of Germany for 12 years, on the constant renewal of talent in the squad.

Low has been in charge of Die Mannschaft since 2006 and his team have won every tournament opener at the Euro Championships and World Cups under him.

"The tension we have is a positive tension and you can feel it rising. What you won in the past does not matter," the 58-year-old said.

"Before the first match everyone has this positive tension... We want to get the message out that we want to win this opening match and then go from there."

The Germans have won all three competitive encounters against the Mexicans, including their 4-1 demolition at last year's Confederations Cup. German FA records state that in 11 matches Mexico have managed just one victory.

But midfielder Julian Draxler, who captained a largely second-string Germany to the Confederations Cup title, warned that this latest encounter would be a completely different affair.

"Our team has changed a lot from the Confederations Cup," he said. "We should not read too much into that win last year. It will be a completely different game.

Like Germany, Mexico expect to emerge out of a group that also includes South Korea and Sweden.

Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio believes the versatility of his players will provide him with options to ultimately outmanoeuvre opponents.

"The Mexicans have always been aggressive, it is an aggressive team without being violent," he said.

"Mexican football is recognised under that condition and that tradition must continue.

"Today there are players who play in other positions and they are doing well, which gives us the great possibility of having a plan B and even a plan C."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 17, 2018, with the headline 'Aspiring to 'most difficult feat''. Print Edition | Subscribe