At barely 1.70m, Marko Marin may be one of the smallest German internationals, but his reputation is growing by the day. Since making his senior debut in May 2008, the 21-year-old winger has picked up seven caps under Joachim Low and cemented his place in the squad.
FIFA.com caught up with the UEFA European U-21 Championship winner at Germany’s training camp in the South Tyrol, where the squad is preparing for next month’s 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
FIFA.com: Marko, after a rollercoaster season, your club Werder Bremen finished third in the Bundesliga and reached the final of the German Cup. On balance, how would you sum up the year?
Marko Marin: It was a very positive season for us. The second half in particular went very well and we also produced some great performances in Europe. In the end we did well in the league as well as the cup, so I think it was a good showing.
You scored four goals and made 14 assists in 32 league appearances. How happy were you with your own performance?
For me personally, things went very well. I started almost every match and really raised my game in the second half of the campaign. I scored and set up goals in all competitions, which, when all is said and done, is what people measure you by. I also had the chance to gain some international experience in the Europa League, something that was extremely important to me.
You mentioned your strong second half of the season. What would you put that down to?
It’s quite simple really. When you arrive at a new club as a young player you need some time to get used to your new surroundings. Luckily, in my case it didn’t take me too long to settle. The coach had confidence in me and I put in some good performances in the first half of the season, something I was able to build on in 2010.
Having been named in the provisional squad for South Africa 2010, how would say preparations are going for the big event?
The mood within the squad is excellent and preparations are going really well. We’re now anxious for the tournament to start and can’t wait to get to get on the plane for South Africa. I try to do my best when I play, but ultimately it’s down to the coach to decide whether I‘m good enough.
How serious is the loss of your first-choice goalkeeper Rene Adler and captain Michael Ballack?
I think we’re still coming to terms with being without Michael. To lose a major figure like him is a huge blow for us, but there’s nothing we can do to change it. I still believe this team can be successful if we pull together. It is also very sad for Rene that he can’t be there, but we have some excellent keepers in the squad who can do a good job in his place. They have proved that time and again.
Competition for attacking midfield berths looks particularly intense with Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller, Lukas Podolski, Piotr Trochowski and yourself all vying for places in the starting XI. What’s your take on that situation?
I think that our system, with two defensive and three attacking midfielders, suits me because that’s the system we use at Bremen. I’m also happy playing on either flank. My strength is going forward, where I can put my dribbling skills to good use, and that’s something the coach knows as well.
Two years ago you were also in the provisional squad for UEFA EURO 2008 but did not make the final 23. What’s your gut feeling this year?
I was in a totally different position then. I was coming straight from the 2. Bundesliga (the second tier in German football) and it was a dream for me to be named in the squad for the first time. Since then I’ve had two years experience in the top flight and have played in Europe. I don’t worry about it too much though, I just put everything into training and believe I’ll be there in South Africa.
What would a ticket to South Africa mean to you at the age of 21?
I don’t think age really comes into it because a World Cup is something special for any player. It’s the biggest tournament in world football and everyone is looking forward to it. Moreover, I believe we have the potential to go all the way.
How do you rate Group D opponents Australia, Serbia and Ghana?
I see Serbia as our main rivals. They were excellent in qualifying and are a very solid side who keep things tight at the back. They also have some great individuals so we don’t expect an easy time of it. Ghana did well at the African Cup of Nations and showed us what they can do in 2006, so they will be dangerous opponents. Australia will look to defend against us and make us take the game to them.
Is there any one game you’re particularly looking forward to?
The game against Serbia will be special for me of course. I was born in the former Yugoslavia and have a lot of friends there. I was a big fan of Yugoslavia as a child, so I hope we can both reach the knockout phase.
Who are your favourites for the title?
Spain have a very strong squad, as they showed at EURO 2008. They haven't changed very much since then so have to be among the favourites. That said, there are a number of good teams at the World Cup, including ourselves. Whatever happens, we’ll do all we can to achieve our goal.
Which player are you most looking forward to meeting in South Africa?
I hope that we come up against Portugal at some point during the tournament. It would be nice to play against my Bremen team-mate Hugo Almeida. If we knock them out of the tournament, we’ll have plenty to talk about back at our club next season (laughs).