Whenever Lennart Thy gets on the ball it invariably means problems for opposing defenders. Germany's in-form frontman scored three of his side's seven goals in the group phase, putting himself in pole position in the race to win the adidas Golden Boot at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Nigeria 2009. And like any striker worth his salt, the Werder Bremen tyro is hungry for more.
It was Thy who sparked Germany's revival in their final group match against Honduras, a game the European champions had to win to stay in the tournament. With his side trailing 1-0 ten minutes into the second half, the tall forward turned the game on its head with two goals inside 60 seconds.
For the prolific hitman such feats are all part of the job. As much a threat in the air as he is on the ground, it was his performance as the tournament's top scorer that helped Marco Pezzaiuoli's team land the continental title on home soil in May. Explosive on the pitch and surprisingly reserved off it, Thy is now intent on helping Germany sweep all before them in Nigeria. "We showed plenty of resolve and character in the group phase and that's good," he says. "But what we have to do now is start from scratch again. This experience has brought us even closer together and I can tell you we really want to be champions."
Germany's journey through Group A was nothing if not adventurous. Seemingly in command in their first match against hosts Nigeria, they somehow contrived to lose a three-goal lead, eventually drawing the game 3-3. Against Argentina they went from 1-0 up to 2-1 down in a matter of seconds, and in the meeting with the Hondurans, they fell behind before a producing a second-half rally to qualify from third place. "It's better to get all that out of the way at the start of the tournament," reasons Thy. "It would have been worse to go through those ups and downs in the knockout rounds. It's been a valuable experience for us."
The kings of Europe travelled to western Africa with very high expectations, which they have so far struggled to fulfil. Yet as far as the lanky target man is concerned, there is still plenty of time for them to shake off the pressure and come good. "It's natural that we gave ourselves an objective to reach before coming out here. Some people react positively to things like that, and some see it as a burden."
Ready to go
Judging by his performances so far, Thy does not appear to be feeling the pressure, though the tension is sure to increase a notch or two when Germany take on neighbours Switzerland in Lagos on Wednesday. And while they recognise the strengths of the Swiss, Thy and his colleagues seem to have rediscovered their self-belief. "We need to be careful because they are a tactically disciplined side and very, very combative. We are ready though."
The Swiss defenders will certainly need to be ready if they are to blunt the threat posed by the opportunistic finisher, who will be sniffing yet more goals to boost his chances of ending another major tournament as leading scorer. "That's not so important as the team being successful," he says, attempting to deflect attention away from his scoring exploits. "If we can get success and I can make a contribution to that with my goals, then that would be just perfect."
And whatever happens in the all-European duel, Thy already has plenty of wonderful memories to take home with him. "It's just fantastic to be here in Nigeria, and I'm very proud that we have been entertaining the fans with our football here."