After being shut out by Korea 0-2 in their first match of the finals, Ulli Stielike’s Germans looked to be offensively impaired. But three second-half strikes in sixteen minutes against the States in their second outing, sounded a resounding warning to the field of competing nations. Their first and third in the 3-1 win came by way of Chelsea men Robert Huth and Sebastian Kneissl. FIFA.com recently caught up with the latter for a chat about Germany’s slow start, hopes for the second round and the state of affairs at Stamford Bridge.
Looking back on the first match and their sputtering start, Germany’s gifted number 9 points to nerves as a significant factor.
“In the first game against Korea we had a lot of problems getting the ball forward,” he told FIFA.com in perfect English with a bit of cockney around the edges. “We were quite nervous as the Koreans are very disciplined and speedy, and can hurt you on the break. The way they hold their shape, they can be a very uncomfortable team to play against.”
But up against the USA, he sees an overall change in mentality as the most significant element in the side’s 180-degree turnaround. And of course, scoring goals always helps out a striker’s confidence.
“Against the United States we created more chances, and obviously we scored some goals,” he continued. “We know that we didn’t play well in the first half against the U.S. We were a bit nervous, the way we were against Korea. We knew that the States were the kind of team that would give us loads of space to run into, but that would only set them up for the counter-attack. We stayed back a little bit, and the in the second half we got forward and showed that we could play.”
His third goal in minute 63 required a fine first touch and a simple tap in. But the striker took pains to play down the difficulty of the finish. “It was definitely the easiest goal to score in that game. But a goal is a goal, and I am always happy to get one for the team. I hadn’t scored for Germany in a long time – something like 11 games, so it was a huge relief. It’s good for a striker to score, good for the confidence.”
Playing his club football with Chelsea, Kneissl had a front row seat for Roman Abromovich’s “Russian Revolution” and what has proven a whirlwind year for the fashionable West London club. “It’s been exciting this past year at Chelsea to be sure. But obviously for some of us young players it’s been a bit of a drag,” the honest striker admitted freely. “It’s a great club and the new players that have come in are just unbelievable. It is just amazing to train with them and play with guys like, Veron, Crespo, Mutu…and Damien Duff.”
Words of Wisdom from a former future star
In FIFA World Youth Championship veteran Damien Duff (four-goal scorer back at Nigeria 1999), Kneissl has found a fitting role model. And he’s even taken a bit of advice to heart from the Republic of Ireland star.
“If you watch a guy like Veron it’s just amazing what he can do with the ball in training. His skills are just unbelievable,” he said. “But in the games, we’re still just waiting for him to put in the good performances. On the other hand Damien Duff has been pretty average in training but amazing in the games. So, for me Damien is the one I keep an eye on the most.”
“Damien just told me to go off and enjoy it,” continued the German striker. “I ran into him in the physio’s room and he heard me and Robert Huth were off to play in the World Youth Championship. He said it was just an absolutely amazing time and a different type of atmosphere than anything I will probably ever experience. It’s the kind of thing that you maybe get to experience once in a lifetime. He just said to enjoy it, give everything and try to score a lot of goals.”
One final test
One point could be enough for Germany to reach the second round; they could even find a way through with no points. But playing the day’s first match, Kneissl sees victory as the only way to be sure.
“We’ll just try to go in and get a win and hopefully win the group. As long as we win, we can just sit back, relax and enjoy the second game.”
“Paraguay don’t play exactly the same game as the United States,” he admitted. “But they are similar in many ways. I think they are definitely an easier team to play against than the Koreans and I am quite confident and looking forward to the match. Hopefully, we will win and go through, and win the group as well.”