A player like Manuel Neuer does not need much of an introduction. Widely regarded as the world’s best goalkeeper, he has been named in the FIFA/FIFPro World XI for the last four years and came third in the FIFA Ballon d'Or award in January 2015. He has represented his country at two FIFA World Cups™ - winning the 2014 edition in Brazil - and two UEFA European Championships, while at club level, he has won virtually all there is to win with Bayern Munich.
However, Neuer is yet to appear at the FIFA Confederations Cup, and is therefore relishing the prospect of “a professional tournament, great hospitality, hopefully sold-out stadiums and some wonderful moments” at this year's edition in Russia, as he explained in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. The Tournament of Champions 2017 is set to commence on 17 June in St Petersburg, and Neuer appealed to fans to make it a memorable experience: “Come to the stadiums and make it a sell out!”
For the Gelsenkirchen native, the most interesting aspect of the tournament is that “only a few select teams that have been successful in the last few years will compete against each other. Every game and every tournament is a big challenge, so you always want to give your best.”
Such optimism will be encouraging to fans of a team whose Confederations Cup record shows room for improvement. Germany travelled to Mexico in 1999 as the defending European champions, but exited at the group stage following defeats to Brazil and USA and a win against New Zealand. Six years later, they hosted the tournament and performed markedly better, beating Australia and Tunisia and drawing with Argentina. Jurgen Klinsmann’s charges ended up third, narrowly losing to Brazil in the semi-finals before edging Mexico 4-3 in a spectacular third-place play-off.
Awaiting them this time around in Sochi on 19 June is a familiar side in Asian champions Australia. “We played them at the World Cup in 2010 [Germany won the group game 4-0], so they’re a team we know about,” said Neuer. “And I like taking on teams I’ve played against before. We can look forward to that one.”
The 30-year-old believes a strong start will be important, especially with only a small number of sides involved. “It’s important to get off to a good start. That way you know exactly where you are. So you have to try to win.”
After Australia, Germany face South American champions Chile on 22 June, with Neuer set to line up against his Bayern team-mate Arturo Vidal. “Chile are a very good team and very tough to play against. They’re also very dangerous. The one friendly game we had against them [a 1-0 victory for Germany in March 2014] was a very difficult match.”
Germany round off the group stage against 2017 CAF Africa Cup of Nations champions Cameroon on 25 June. “We’ve often had problems against African teams in the past, so we’ll definitely have to be well equipped,” said the captain of Die Nationalmannschaft.
The man between the posts for club and country ended the interview by issuing a warning to the rest of the competition: “We want to win every trophy we compete for, and that includes the Confederations Cup – it’s definitely a great-looking trophy. Every team involved at a tournament wants to achieve the maximum, and we’re no different.”
Hear Neuer’s memories of following the 2005 tournament as a fan, and his assessment of Germany’s chances of success in 2017, in this video!