The German dressing room is close to silent. Down the tunnel they can hear their victorious Croatian counterparts loudly singing, jubilant in uncontainable joy at winning their first ever FIFA U-17 World Cup knockout game 2-0 against the much-fancied Germans. Captain Felix Passlack takes the responsibility, standing to deliver a speech to his disconsolate team-mates.
“I said to them that it is sad that the boys won’t play any more for the U-17,” Passlack said in an interview with FIFA.com. “But everybody is now going to go their own way and work hard. We will see them at another tournament.”
That steadfast and steely drive is emblematic of Passlack’s style of play, a direct and exciting right winger. The Borussia Dortmund player tried to lead by example in the side’s Round of 16 exit, getting on the ball at every opportunity. However, he either found the inspired Adrian Semper in the Croatian goal, or his team-mates were unable to capitalise on the opportunities he created.
It was not so in the DFB-Nachwuchs’ opening two games at Chile 2015, where they caught the eye in dismantling Australia, and then Argentina. Both dazzling four-goal displays saw Passlack score in each game. Their Group C campaign concluded with defeat to Mexico, and that loss was compounded by their exit at the hands of their European counterparts. Were the Germans too confident after their blistering start?
“No, we did not feel we were favourites,” Passlack said. “We knew before the tournament that there was a lot of quality in our team but the other sides were also at a good level. That showed in the results from the last two games. It’s hard to tell right now what went wrong but we will analyse the games together.”
*Passlack delivers his answers with a confident self-assuredness, while also exuding a humility that is not present in the average 17-year-old. And that is because he is far from average, as displayed by his philosophical outlook so close to his side’s exit at a global finals.
“You learn more from losing games than you do from winning them,” Passlack reflected. “We had a great time here in Chile, but now of course it is disappointing.”
There was a touching moment of Fair Play from Passlack in the closing moments after Croatia had broken away to score their second and seal their progress. The German No2 and Croatia’s Josip Brekalo tangled briefly before shaking hands and exchanging a few words, with Passlack’s reluctant smile revealing it was a friendly discussion.
“I just told him that he’s a really good player and I wish him the best for the rest of the tournament.”
Leading by example on and off the pitch, Passlack has his own role model to look up to as well. He names the man who scored one of the most famous goals in German history, Mario Gotze, as his idol. Passlack will be hoping that he and his team-mates can learn significant enough lessons from their Chilean schooling, and follow the lead of Gotze and Co in reaching the later stages of global finals in years to come.