If Germany are gung-ho about this year’s European championships, it is partly because they can look back with satisfaction at the World Cup in South Africa in 2010. That is what the best young player at the last World Cup and the best goalkeeper in waiting feel. “Beating huge teams such as England and Argentina (in the pre-quarter finals and the next round) and making it to the half-final (semi-final) contributed to Germany being what it is now,” said Thomas Mueller, switching between English and German as effortlessly as he shifts from playing behind the striker at Bayern Munich to a wide right midfielder with the national team.

When the question was put to Manuel Neuer, the massive Bayern and Germany goalkeeper, he said: “Beating such big opponents gave this team a big push and that along with the results of subsequent matches is the reason for so much self-confidence.”

Germany have qualified for the European championships with a 100% record and, between beating Uruguay to the third place in the last World Cup and now, have downed Brazil and the Netherlands in friendlies. The European championships will be held in Poland and Ukraine from June 8 to July 1.

“Of course, we are in a strong group with Poland and the Netherlands and we are not underestimating Denmark but we are confident… And at 22, I am usually no longer the youngest player in the team,” said Mueller, a Bayern fan before joining their youth team in 2000.

Former European and world champion Uli Hoeness said Germany are now on a par with Spain and Paul Breitner, his teammate in the triumphs of 1972 and 1974, said finally they have a generation of football players and not “football workers”.

Mueller though put Spain “half-a-stage higher.” “They are the world and European champions but our team is now in a position where we can beat Spain on a perfect day. We know we are good, we know we are better than two years ago,” he said.

The interviews were done separately but both Mueller and Neuer said they enjoy being under pressure. Mueller said it’s nice to feel the pressure of a tournament and Neuer, 25, later said he prefers a busy day at work to strolling around the 18-yard box.

“When that happens, it become difficult to concentrate and you can make a mistake that may turn out to be costly. But if I have to make saves repeatedly, I know I am in the game and my teammates and opponents know that too. The best-case scenario is I make an early save before Bayern or Germany take the game to the opponents,” said Neuer, who kept 10 blank sheets in the Bundesliga after being transferred from Schalke this season for 22 million euros (now around Rs 142.8 crore).

No to technology
MS Dhoni and the rest of the India cricket establishment would have liked it if they heard Neuer volley technology out of the conversation. Asked for his take on goalline technology while referring to the England goal that was disallowed in the last World Cup against them — which goal, he asked with a straight face — Neuer said he is okay with the way things were.

“In football, advantages and disadvantages cancel each other out so I am okay that there is a person entrusted with doing a job and he is doing it. Of course, I understand that if something like this happens at a World Cup it can make people very angry but I still wouldn’t force it.”


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