Their first objective now safely fulfilled, the moment has arrived to see just how far this German team can go. After an impressive start to the FIFA U-17 World Cup Korea 2007, Germany are brimming with confidence ahead of Thursday's Round-of-16 clash with the USA at the Cheonan Sports Complex.
"We had a really good group stage. We managed three goals against a Colombia team that are usually very tough to score against, we blew Ghana off the park in the first half and in the last match, the players who hadn't featured much came in and did a job. We've got a cracking team and we're really confident about the USA match," said an optimistic Sascha Bigalke in an interview with FIFA.com.
The versatile Hertha Berlin attacker has every reason to be confident as he is part of the second-most prolific strike force of the tournament to date. Despite being drawn in the highly competitive Group F, Germany managed an impressive 11 goals, only three fewer than title favourites Brazil.
The mercurial Bigalke is a tricky winger who is always likely to get on the scoresheet and combines perfectly with playmaker Toni Kroos. The fact that they seem to know instinctively where the other one is on the pitch is no fluke, as the affable Bigalke explains. "We've known each other for a good few years now and we're two very good players who like to play a direct style of football. We get on very well off the pitch, but the main thing is that we fit in with the rest of the team," said the German No20.
Bad dress rehearsal, good performance
Kroos, who shares a room with Bigalke at the team hotel in Onyang, is bubbling with optimism ahead of the USA clash. "We are the kind of team that can play exciting attacking football. We've shown that we are a match for any country and on our day, we can beat anyone."
The only possible cold water to be poured on all this enthusiasm is the fact that around a month ago, Germany lost a warm-up match 3-1 to the very team they now face in the last sixteen. "A number of players were making their debuts then and we've got a lot stronger since. We shouldn't make too much of that result," maintains Bigalke, who prefers to see the USA match as the next step on the road to the ultimate prize. "We can win the World Cup. We've got a great squad and all the players are committed to going for the title."
Midfield maestro Kroos is similarly single-minded. "We're into the knockout stages so this is where the tournament really starts," he said. "If we can maintain our concentration we can keep winning matches and making progress. We're all obviously dreaming of making the Final and we'll be giving it our all. From this point forth, anything is possible."