This 1.98m giant can certainly be considered the rock at the heart of the German defence, a real bastion of strength in national coach Joachim Low’s side. Thanks to his outstanding physique, excellent positional play and now extensive international experience, Per Mertesacker is an all-but-guaranteed starter for the three-time FIFA World Cup™ winners in South Africa.
What is particularly remarkable about the 25-year-old Werder Bremen stopper is how few fouls he commits for a central defender. Mertesacker is the kind of man who in his homeland would be described as a typical northerner. Often quiet and reserved off the field, the Hannover-born defender is a model of concentration out on the pitch, giving clear, no-nonsense orders to his team-mates. In recent years, his play going forward has improved considerably and he now shows great confidence as an on-field leader. Thanks to his strength in the air, Mertesacker also poses a constant threat to opposing defences at set-pieces.
His remarkable quality has enabled the defender to reach the milestone of 60 international appearances at a relatively young age. He was a fixture as Germany took third place at the 2006 FIFA World Cup on home soil, and finished runners-up at UEFA EURO 2008 in Austria and Switzerland. The achievement is all the more remarkable, because as a youth player with hometown club Hannover 96, he was ready to turn his back on football at one point. Mertesacker was then considered a good amateur rather than someone with a future in the professional game.
However, he always continued to believe in himself, and was rewarded by making his first Bundesliga appearance for Hannover at the age of 19. From that point everything happened very quickly: his first professional contract was followed by regular first-team football, youth international recognition, a transfer to Bremen, European competition, and then in October 2004, a senior international debut in a 2-0 friendly victory over Iran in Tehran. Mertesacker then went on to scale the heights of the game, winning plaudits during the FIFA World Cup finals four years ago as one of the best tacklers at the tournament. Mertesacker is ready to demonstrate his talent again in South Africa.