Despite bearing the weighty burden of replacing injured captain Michael Ballack at the heart of Germany's midfield, 23-year-old Sami Khedira is clearly not lacking in confidence ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. "We've come here to achieve something special," said the Stuttgart holding midfielder. "We intend to show the world that we can play good football."
Born in Stuttgart to a Tunisian father and German mother, Khedira may have only five international appearances under his belt but he has caught the eye for both club and country thanks to his self-assurance and outgoing personality. An impressive performer in Die Nationalmannschaft's warm-up matches, Khedira will be determined to carry that form into Sunday's Group D opener against Australia in Durban. "The Australians are very effective in defence, particularly compact and strong one-on-one," he told FIFA. "If you play at a slow pace against them, you'll run into problems. We must be careful and above all shouldn't underestimate them. But there's no chance of that, because we are fully focused and will look to play at a high tempo."
Given Khedira's technique and ability to read the game, it will fall to him to set the pace alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger in the German engine room. It is a task perfectly suited to the tactically aware midfielder, who in only his first season as a professional made a vital contribution to Stuttgart's 2006/07 Bundesliga triumph. "I'm not one to blow my own trumpet," said the modest youngster. "But I do enjoy dictating the game and see myself as a link between defence and attack."
Coach Joachim Low is eager to put the Socceroos on the back foot but will they miss Ballack's goals from midfield? "Michael's withdrawal has hit us hard, but there's no point continuing to agonise over it. I believe that Basti [Schweinsteiger] and I filled his role well against Bosnia-Herzegovina," said Khedira, referring to Germany’s 3-1 friendly victory shortly before jetting off to South Africa. "All of us are ready to take on responsibility. Obviously a player like Ballack is not easily replaced, especially in terms of his personality. But I'm convinced that we're capable of playing football with enough passion to hopefully not notice his absence too much."
Global stage awaits
Also looking to work in tandem with Khedira is Mesut Ozil, another player of foreign extraction who has chosen to play for the country where he grew up. Fleet-footed, with an eye for a pass and particularly adept in the No10 role, the 21-year-old will be charged with adding a dose of unpredictability to Germany's attacking play. "Mesut is hugely talented,” said Khedira, who is expected to line up behind Ozil as one of two sitting midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
"Germany have waited a long time for a player like him. He's capable of turning a game and it's vital for the team to have an attacker who wants possession of the ball. I think he can play a crucial role for us." With Germany boasting a relatively young squad, will this be the moment that the likes of Khedira and Ozil make their names, much as Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm did four years ago? "I'm just enjoying playing football," said Khedira as the interview concluded. "But it's nice to have the whole world watching."