The German camp was a sea of smiles after a crushing 4-1 victory over arch-rivals England in a thrilling and eventful Round of 16 tie at the Free State Stadium in Mangaung/Bloemfontein. After the match, FIFA.com spoke exclusively to goalscorer Miroslav Klose and defender Arne Friedrich about the reasons for their team's triumph.
"I think more than one factor swung it in our favour today," said Friedrich. 'We played as a team, we worked together for the full 90 minutes, and more than anything else, we were fitter. At the decisive moments, we had the physical advantage." The man capped 76 times by his country was clearly bursting with pride after his team’s bracing display. Indeed, the 31-year-old can almost be considered a veteran now in a line-up once again inspired to great heights by talented youngsters Mesut Ozil and the two-goal Thomas Muller.
"Make no mistake, England looked like the stronger team beforehand, just from the names on the team-sheet. But I think we definitely made up for that with our outstanding team spirit," continued Friedrich. Striker Klose was quick to echo the defender's comments. The 32-year-old rolled back the years with a strong-running and energetic display, evoking memories of his fine outings at the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ on home soil. He crowned a praiseworthy performance with the opening goal, his 50th in 99 appearances for Germany.
The ever-modest Bayern Munich marksman would have been justified in talking up his own display, but he too spoke only about the collective. "Team spirit was the main reason we won," he said. "Everyone worked his socks off for everyone else, and we were all committed to the cause. That's what made the difference."
Joachim Low's exciting Germany side delighted at least a section of the 40,510 crowd with their assured technique and moments of great skill, but the coach's eyes sparkled for a different reason. He said: "I've seen my team play well a few times, but that was a genuinely superb performance from my young team against an experienced England side. We were tactically outstanding. We were determined not to let them take the initiative."
Going all the way?
For all the talk of winning as a team, one man stood head and shoulders above the rest. Muller is just 20, but provided yet more evidence that he is a great in the making, as he climbed to the top of the scorer points chart at the finals with three goals and three assists to his name. "His quality is unbelievable. He’s never inhibited, and despite his youth, he never appears nervous. He also has that priceless nose for goal in the box. The way he ruthlessly puts away his chances is phenomenal," Low said when quizzed about the Budweiser Man of the Match.
After a rollercoaster ride through their group, the Germans have now seen off a big footballing name, spurred on by moments of magic from their starlets, and there is no mistaking the squad's timeless virtues of unity and fighting spirit. Germany in 2010 appear to boast many of the qualities which make for champions. But despite this famous victory over England, Low's feet are firmly on the ground. "Whether it's Argentina or Mexico, our next opponents will be much more difficult to beat, so no-one should be fooled into thinking we're favourites," he added.