Lying third in Group A with just a point to their name, Germany must claim a win in their final match against Honduras on 30 October in Abuja to keep their chances of reaching the Round of 16 alive. And to secure the vital three points, they will be relying heavily on a pair of players who are entirely different, yet form a tight bond: Mario Goetze and Christopher Buchtmann. FIFA.com takes a look at this unlikely duo.
Physically, they are like chalk and cheese. With his tousled fair hair, left midfielder Christopher Buchtmann is powerful, sturdy and talkative. His dark-haired team-mate, forward Mario Goetze, sports a neat haircut, has a slightly more serious look about him and weighs his words carefully. But despite their differences, the pair have clearly hit it off very well, both on and off the field.
Both of them like a laugh ("He's useless at FIFA10!," jokes Buchtmann, sending Goetze into stitches), but when mention is made of their first two matches, the pair become serious. "We're disappointed, because in both matches we were ahead, only to inexplicably lose our concentration and give away goals," says Christopher.
"It's entirely our own fault," chips in Mario, not the type to beat about the bush. "At key moments in each game, our minds weren't fully on the job. We've no one to blame but ourselves."
As for spirits in the camp, it is reasonable to assume that coach Marco Pezzaiuoli's post-match team talk in the wake of the 2-1 defeat to Argentina ruffled a few feathers. But the team are still confident, and both youngsters know what they must do to beat Honduras. "We've got to keep our minds on the game for the full 90 minutes," says Buchtmann, mimicking a pair of blinkers. Mario, as always, gets straight to the point: "It's our last chance to reach the last 16, so we can't make the same mistakes, we've got to keep control of the match."
Both Bayern Munich supporters, they played together at the Borussia Dortmund academy for three seasons. By their own admission, they were not close friends at the time, as Christopher lived in Hannover. "I don't know why exactly, but we've always tried to pick each other out on the pitch," explains Christopher, as Mario smiles in agreement. Ironically, since the left-footer moved to Liverpool, the two have become closer, keeping in regular contact via the Internet, and are happy to be reunited on the national team.
Buchtmann's switch to the Premiership with the Reds was undoubtedly a big step for the teenager. "To be honest, the first three months were awful. I was far from my family and friends, I couldn't speak the language very well - it was really tough. But I'm staying with a host family and they're really great."
Goetze, a great admirer of Zinedine Zidane, is still living at home in Dortmund, not wanting to put the cart before the horse. But there is no doubting his talent, as he even received compliments from the senior-team national coach, Joachim Low, after an impressive UEFA U-17 European Championship in May and two goals in Nigeria.
Mannschaft and Anfield idols
There's no risk, however, of the success going to his head. "It's gratifying to get compliments from the national coach, but it's much too early to start thinking about the Mannschaft, as there are many pitfalls along the way. When I get back to Germany, I'll be training with the Dortmund first team, which is another stepping stone in my career, as I'll be learning every day. But it's just a start." With remarks like this, there's no doubt that Goetze has his head well screwed on.
Christopher, a Cristiano Ronaldo fan, has already trained with the Liverpool first team, which was a dream come true for him. "Training sessions with the likes of [Fernando] Torres and [Steven] Gerrard are on another level - the pace is much quicker and the standard much higher. But they're all really nice: Jamie Carragher explains things very well, and Dirk Kuyt, who knows German, talks to me."
Both players are under no illusions that they have a lot to learn, but appreciate each other's strengths. "Mario is a very technical player who knows where the goal is. He's a great asset to the team," says the player nicknamed 'Buchti'. "Christopher is very strong going forward - he could even play as a left winger. As for getting back to defend...well, let's say it's not our strong suit," grins Mario.
So although confidence is high, the Honduras match is looming large, and is the pressure mounting? "The whole team is used to pressure. We played in front of 24,000 people in the final of the European Championships. High-pressure games don't come much bigger than that, and we won," says Christopher.
"It's not the first time we've been in this situation. We've got to go out and win our next match, that's all there is to it," adds Mario. "Exactly. We haven't become a bad team in three days, and we're confident that we'll qualify," concludes the Liverpudlian with a knowing glance at his pal.