Mitchell Weiser has spent a large part of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011 stationed near the left-hand side of opposing penalty boxes. No surprise there, you might think, as a member of a Germany side that has spent most of the tournament on the front foot, scoring 18 goals in their five games. But when you consider that Weiser is the team’s right-back, his advanced position gives you an indication of just how dominant the Germans have been.
The blond-haired defender is an integral part of coach Steffen Freund’s attacking plans and has even chipped in with three goals so far, against Burkina Faso and Panama in the group phase and USA in the round of 16, all of them scored with his left foot no less.
Then, in the 3-2 quarter-final defeat of England, the goalscorer turned supplier. After lofting a perfectly judged through-ball, again with his left, into the path of Samed Yesil for Germany’s opener, he then teed the No9 up for his second with an audacious back-heel following another galloping run down the right flank.
On the basis of his contribution so far, which would have been even more prolific but for missed chances on his part and the failure of his team-mates to convert more of his pinpoint assists, Weiser appears more of a Brazilian full-back than a German one. “I wouldn’t know what to say to that,” the smiling Weiser told FIFA.com. “The fact is I play in a similar position for my club and I feel comfortable there, both with them and the national team. I have to say that I like [Barcelona right-back] Dani Alves because of the way he plays, but I’m trying to develop my own style.”
A familiar challenge
Despite their fast start against the English, which saw them surge into a 3-0 lead, Weiser and his team-mates were grateful to hear the final whistle at the end of Monday’s thrilling match. “We were very tired at the end and we had to work really hard for the win, which made it doubly enjoyable though,” he explained. “I wasn’t surprised to see them come back either because we knew they’d fight until the end. They raised their game after the penalty, that’s true, but we also started to get a bit jumpy. Even so, I thought we played a great game overall.”
The Germans now face an altogether different challenge against the tournament hosts. “We’re really looking forward to it,” said Weiser in anticipation of Thursday’s mouth-watering semi-final. “It’s going to be very special to play the hosts at a packed stadium, and it should be a feast of football.”
As the squad’s designated DJ, the defender is well accustomed to entertaining, although he is expecting a cagey encounter with the Mexicans: “It’s two of the best teams in the world going head-to-head and I reckon it will be a tight game. There isn’t much difference between teams at this level and I think the result will boil down to the little details. We’ll be ready though.”
For the first time in the competition, Weiser and his cohorts will have an entire stadium against them. Yet, as far as the buccaneering wing-back is concerned, they are ready for the test: “We’re a strong unit made up of the top 21 U-17 players in Germany, who also happen to be very good friends. Our team spirit has got us this far and we’re ready to keep on going, one game at a time.”