As a man with a seemingly permanent cheerful disposition and a knack for making people laugh, Lukas Podolski plays a vital role in maintaining a positive atmosphere within the Germany camp. Yet his value to the three-time FIFA World Cup™ winners extends far beyond a gift for one-liners.

The 29-year-old has already earned 114 international caps, with Brazil 2014 his third appearance at a global showdown. Nevertheless, Podolski’s motivation to succeed remains as fierce as ever and anyone who has watched him in recent training sessions or witnessed his displays in Germany’s pre-tournament warm-up matches could not have failed to notice his sharpness, astonishing levels of fitness and increasingly muscular physique.

Given Marco Reus’s injury-enforced absence from Brazil, the spotlight is set to focus ever more keenly on the left-footed Arsenal attacker, and it is a prospect he is relishing. Gone are the days of the carefree ‘Poldi’ from his early career; this is a player in his prime and ready to shoulder responsibility.

Key figure
That much was evident ahead of Germany’s tough opening game against a strong Portugal side in Salvador on Monday. “We’ve developed as a team and that’s exactly what we want to show at this World Cup,” he told FIFA.com. “We’ll go into the match with confidence, conviction and power and we will win it.”

Those precise qualities have come to the fore in Podolski’s own game in recent years, helping him get back to his best and enjoy a position of influence in Joachim Low’s squad. With Germany considered long overdue a triumph at a major international tournament, Podolski’s blend of light-heartedness laughs and an iron-clad will to win will be crucial, especially in the potentially decisive encounter with Cristiano Ronaldo and Co.

Aiming high

“We cannot forget that they’re ranked fourth in the world,” said Podolski. “They have Ronaldo and we know that he can decide a game on his own in an instant, or with just a single shot. But if we play well then I think there’s no doubt that we’re capable of winning the game. Our aim is to start off with a victory. That’s why we flew all the way out here.”

That steely determination was also apparent in an interview Germany’s No10 gave to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: “I’m not here just because of my good nature.” Nevertheless, he is also aware of the power good humour can have in helping deal with the pressure to succeed.

“I told my son that daddy was going to try to bring back a trophy, ideally the biggest one,” he said at a pre-match press conference. “That’s my aim. That’s what spurs me on.” While such honesty has long been a trait of Podolski’s, Portugal should take note: he has rarely looked as driven.