Hrubesch: We can go a long way
"When we go out there, we want to be the ones setting and controlling the pattern of the match," declared Horst Hrubesch, expressing full confidence and belief in his team's strengths. The Germany U-20 coach was speaking exclusively to FIFA.com on the eve of the Round of 16 clash with Nigeria at the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2009.
"We're not just going to let our opponents come at us and vaguely see how it unfolds. The question is whether that can always work. There's definitely a team out there who are better than us, we have to accept that. But the critical thing is not to think we're beaten before it starts."
This approach worked well in the group phase. Victories over the USA and Cameroon and a 1-1 draw with Korea Republic handed the young Germans the group win they were aiming for, "although we should have beaten the South Koreans too."
The former striker's summary of the group stage "is positive, of course. We gelled as a team, despite an almost complete lack of preparation. On the one hand, we've come together as a unit, and on the other hand, we played some attractive football."
We gelled as a team, despite an almost complete lack of preparation.
Ahead of the duel with the Africans, two factors would seem to weigh in the Europeans' favour. It will be their third match at the Mubarak Stadium in Suez, and the experience gained from meeting Cameroon will be useful in combating Nigeria.
"They're great individuals, who've now also learned a lot about tactics, discipline and organisation. But we'll create chances, as we've done all along, and we all but stopped Cameroon making any of their own. We've defending exceptionally well so far and we've conceded very few goals. We've also been creating four to six clear-cut chances per half. With more determination, we can be wrapping up matches earlier."
"That's a point I've been emphasising in our training sessions and team talks. These are the areas where we still have work to do. Overall, we're growing together as a team, and you can see us making progress. The players are confident and free to express themselves."
The coach is not wasting any thought on a potential quarter-final meeting with Brazil. "I'm not interested in that. We have to beat whoever we play. My job is to make it clear to the team that they're here by right, and not as stand-ins or second choices. We've had to pull it all together from scratch due to the lack of preparation, but if we're all prepared to run and fight for each other, we can go a long way."
The Germans have now turned their focus exclusively to the challenge posed by the Flying Eagles, after which they hope to "take it step by step". The last step on the road could be on 16 October, the day of the final in Cairo - almost exactly 28 years since Germany's only previous triumph at the FIFA U-20 World Cup.