Germany get down to business at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Korea
2007 on Monday when Heiko Herrlich's team take on Colombia at
the Cheonan Sports Complex. It is the first outing on the global
stage for a German Football Association (DFB) representative team
at this level in eight years, another source of inspiration for an
already highly motivated squad.
However, the Germans' opening match could provide their most difficult hurdle in Group F. Many experts rate Colombia a solid outside bet for glory after the Cafeteros claimed the runners-up spot at the South American U-17 championships ahead of mighty Argentina, holding eventual winners Brazil to a goalless draw along the way.
Be that as it may, the young Germans are in an upbeat frame of mind ahead of the match, an attitude typified by Nils Teixeira. The Bayer Leverkusen centre-half recently tasted German U-19 championship success at club level and was bristling with confidence even before the squad set off for Korea. "All of us want to win the World Cup, but me more than anyone else," he revealed to FIFA.com with a grin. "Whatever happens, I'll give it my best shot."
The likeable defender and his team-mates will certainly need to be at their best to secure a good start to the World Cup tournament. "It'll be a very tough match, because the Colombians are fighters," acknowledged Teixeira, likely to spend much of the game sparring with Cristian Nazarith. The robust striker was a key member of the Colombia line-up at the South American championships and led from the front with six goals. Teixeira is licking his lips at the prospect: "It fires me up when people say my direct opponent is a decent player," he insisted, oozing confidence and belief.
At home in front of full house
Germany's defensive organiser does not appear the type to be easily knocked out of his stride, even at the daunting prospect of playing in front of a capacity 26,000 crowd in Cheonan. "I'm still very calm at the moment. We'll see how it goes after we run out with all those people there. You're always a little nervous, but you just have to try and relax," he explains. "It's an inspiring thought. I've only experienced anything like it once, in front of a sell-out crowd in Leverkusen. Playing with such a big crowd watching you is an indescribable feeling. It's just tremendous."
Germany's preparations for their opener have gone off without a major hitch. The squad all reported fit, and after shaking off the effects of jet-lag they have grown accustomed to the local climactic conditions. Daytime temperatures in Cheonan are consistently in excess of 30ºC, with humidity to match, quite a difference from northern Europe, where summer is coming to an end. "The weather made it hard work for us at the start, but it's fine now," reports Teixeira, thrilled by his Korean adventure to date: "I'm greatly taken by the country. The people here are unbelievably friendly and polite, and that's made a big impression on me."
The German youngsters are keen to make an impression of their own in Group F, where the line-up includes Ghana and Trinidad and Tobago as well as Colombia. Teixeira, for one, believes he and his team-mates have the ability to make the Round of 16: "I think we have a slight advantage over the other sides in footballing terms, but we also possess a powerful will to win, and we can scrap our way to victory if need be. We have a good blend of fighting spirit and skill." One thing is for sure, that fine blend will be tested to the limit come Monday afternoon.