WORLD CUP 2018

Pressure is high on Germany: Muller

He says team overestimated themselves but will focus on vital game against Sweden next

SOCHI • Germany star Thomas Muller conceded the world champions misjudged their ability to regain form in Russia and are now feeling immense pressure ahead of Saturday's game against Sweden.

Joachim Low's team are in a vulnerable position after starting their defence of the World Cup with a shock 1-0 defeat by Mexico in Moscow last Sunday.

That result prolonged their poor run, with just one unconvincing win, against Saudi Arabia, in seven games since the end of the qualifying campaign.

"We maybe took the friendlies a bit too lightly. Of course we discussed the mistakes from those games, but we thought that when the tournament got going, we would already be strong and fresh enough on the pitch," admitted Muller at a press conference at the German team hotel in Sochi yesterday. "We wrongly underestimated the situation, we couldn't raise our game."

If the Mexicans beat South Korea earlier in Group F on Saturday, Germany would know that a draw against the Swedes on Russia's Black Sea coast would in all probability mean elimination in the opening stage. The Germans have not gone out in the first round since 1938, and they will look to kick-start their campaign in Sochi before facing the Koreans next week.

"We have made ourselves vulnerable. We are self-critical enough to analyse the situation, but now we must look forward together," Muller added.

"We have two important tasks in front of us. The pressure is terrifically high, but we won't win both games if we beat ourselves up internally and look for the mistakes in each other."

NO CRYING OVER SPILT MILK

We have made ourselves vulnerable... but now we must look forward together.

THOMAS MULLER, Germany forward, on how the team must forget the defeat by Mexico and do their best for the next two games.

Low's side have arrived in Sochi early, giving themselves a full three days to acclimatise to the heat and humidity in this part of Russia before facing the Swedes, who are based up the coast.

Low will ponder changes to his starting line-up, with Borussia Dortmund winger Marco Reus - who appeared in front of the media alongside Muller - a contender to come into the side and replace Mesut Ozil.

Former Germany captain Lothar Matthaus was vocal in calling for Ozil to be dropped.

For a year or two, Ozil has "played much weaker and at a level that does not justify Jogi Low's free ticket", the 1990 World Cup winner wrote in his column with German newspaper Bild.

"With Ozil on the pitch I often have the feeling that he does not feel comfortable in the German jersey, is not free, almost as if he does not want to play. There is no heart, no joy, no passion."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 21, 2018, with the headline 'Pressure is high on Germany: Muller'. Print Edition | Subscribe