Mexico shocked the world last Sunday when they beat Germany 1-0 in the opening match of group F, but the reining champions can still progress to the knockout stages with wins against Sweden and South Korea. Despite the underwhelming performance against El Tri in Moscow, Die Mannschaft keeper and captain, Manuel Neuer believes that his side know exactly how to deal with difficult situations likes this.
After what’s been described as a media blackout for Die Mannschaft following the loss, Neuer spoke in a press conference after the squad’s main training session in Watutinki (MARCA; cf. Kicker), where he described the response that his team needs to show after such a deflating result:
From this point on, we only have finals. Now something has to come from us players. We must show what made us so strong in the past. We are convinced that we can do it. We will show that in the next match against Sweden.
The anger and frustration from the Mexico match, Neuer admits, will help the squad stay hungry to right the ship and produce performances that they know they’re more than capable of:
We are our own harshest critics and are mad at ourselves and also disappointed with what we showed on the pitch against Mexico. We talked about it immediately after the game on the bus and at every meal. We need that courage and self-confidence. It was missing (against Mexico). I cannot answer why it was missing but you could see it in our body language. We need to come back together again, and this cannot happen again.
The keeper was also quick to scotch suggestions that there’s been some division inside the Germany camp following the loss. Instead, he said, everyone in the squad, including those who didn’t play at all on Sunday, is completely together:
There aren’t two separate camps. There is no division. We talk to one another, we give our experience to the young players, and we know that the young players from the Confederations Cup are part of the team and very important. It was a wake-up call, just like the first half against Mexico. But our communication within the team has never been stronger than after the Mexico match as every player spoke their mind. We don’t really need a second wake-up call.
Despite his best efforts to be diplomatic, Neuer’s account of the discussions behind the scenes suggests that the locker room atmosphere is tense. Neuer conceded to the journalists present that the preceding team discussion that had delayed the stat of the press conference by 45 minutes had “banged” (geknallt)—that is, been quite heated:
The players who didn’t play didn’t pull any punches. We stated our minds and didn’t mince words.
Neuer’s comment brings to mind Sandro Wagner’s parting shot against Jogi Löw—that his “open, honest and straightforward manner doesn’t fit in with the coaching team.” Reading between the lines of Neuer’s remarks, it would appear that things were brought into the open at Germany’s crisis meeting that had previously been left unsaid.
Ahead of their second match vs. Sweden, Germany will be moving their base camp to Sochi, where the match will be taking place and Neuer admitted that he’s looking forward to the change of scenery:
I am looking forward to the change of scenery. It’s a sign that something different will be happening. Many of us wanted to play against Sweden right away the next day.
As of now, they have three more days to prepare for the Sweden match and get things right; a win is the absolute minimum expectation for the defending champions.