As the pressure mounts, the expressions being used in Germany’s camp are becoming ever more succinct. The tension is reaching its peak ahead of their quarter-final encounter with France at Rio de Janeiro’s venerable Maracana Stadium. Both sides are full of confidence and aware of the struggles for revenge that have been waged between these two major European powers at past FIFA World Cups™. One man full of determination and looking forward eagerly to kick-off is Andre Schurrle.
“France have some fantastic individual players like [Paul] Pogba, [Karim] Benzema and [Mathieu] Valbuena,” the 23-year-old told FIFA. “They have a lot of quality and can create goals from any situation. We know their strengths, but we also know ours.” Above all, the Chelsea player can trust in his own ability. Having played just 28 minutes in the three group matches in Brazil, it was Schurrle who provided a boost in his side’s Round of 16 match against Algeria, scoring a back-heeled goal to put Germany ahead at the start of extra time.
Has Schurrle’s time come?
The blonde forward is back with a bang, and his speed and dynamism have instantly made the three-time world champions more explosive in the final third of the pitch. “He drives every team forward,” said captain Philipp Lahm in appreciation of the man with the built-in turbo engine. It is less surprising to hear that the bullish Schurrle is now a leading candidate to start on the left wing for Germany. Speaking to FIFA, he said: “It’s a childhood dream to be at a World Cup here in Brazil. Now we’ve got to show what we’re made of against France in the quarter-final. Anyone would love to be part of a match like that!”
Schurrle scored four goals for Joachim Low’s side in six World Cup qualifiers en route to Brazil. His standout performance came in Germany’s 5-3 win over Sweden, when he netted three times in 19 minutes, and cemented his place in the national squad. This record, and his tally of 36 international caps, makes it all the more surprising that he has started on the bench in all four of Die Mannschaft’s matches so far. Although Mario Gotze or Lukas Podolski have previously got the nod ahead of Schurrle, this could change against Les Bleus, as the man himself acknowledged by saying: “My chances of starting the match on Friday definitely haven’t worsened.”
Focused on the next hammer blow
It would be presumptuous to say that all of Germany’s hopes against the 1998 world champions now rest on the Ludwigshafen native, but Schurrle is definitely one player who can provide an element of surprise. And the man who claims he has “learned a lot” from Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, knows that “against France we’ve got to perform better. We’ve just got to concentrate and play well. If we can do that, we can beat the French too,” he told FIFA emphatically.
To date, Schurrle has only played a supporting role in a classic fixture that has featured all manner of legends and recordbreaking performances over the years. In 25 encounters, Germany have won eight and lost eight, and the Chelsea forward has experienced two of these defeats first-hand. In February 2012, Germany were beaten 2-1 in Bremen, but almost a year later Die Mannschaft emerged triumphant by the same scoreline – the first German win in France in 78 years. Schurrle did not complete the full 90 minutes in either match, nor did he score any goals.
This Friday, the player is willing to give everything to buck this trend in the latest edition of this classic encounter.