"Germany only stop battling once they're actually on the team bus." This legendary phrase, coined by former Dutch international Ronald Koeman, seems to be the case at almost every major tournament, and the FIFA U-20 World Cup Egypt 2009 has proved to be no exception. The Round of 16 clash against Nigeria in Suez was yet another impressive illustration of the typical German qualities which enable them time and again to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
In what turned out to be a match full of drama, Germany fell behind only to equalise before the Africans had even had time to celebrate their goal. Striker Tobias Kempe was sent off on the hour mark however, and when Nigeria took the lead for the second time, nobody was giving Horst Hrubesch's charges a chance. Die Mannschaft showed what they were made of however and, despite being a man down, they equalised for a second time and then bagged a winner deep into injury time when Bjorn Kopplin took on the entire opposition defence and won.
"You can only win a match like that when you really want it badly. I have nothing but praise for my players as they put in an absolutely brilliant performance despite being down to ten men," said a delighted Hrubesch after the 90-minute roller-coaster. The former German international striker was used to success during his time as a player, winning the UEFA European Championship in 1980 and the European Cup in 1983 with Hamburg, and some of the magic seems to have rubbed off on his troops.
Germany can now legitimately dream of adding a FIFA U-20 World Cup title to their recent European U-21 crown, but no less an adversary than the mighty Brazil await them in the quarter-finals. The South American champions breezed through their last match 3-1 against neighbours Uruguay and impressed observers with their high-octane attacking football. "Anyone who saw Brazil will know what we now have to expect," said Hrubesch.
They've got their weak points too, so why shouldn't we get the better
of them? After winning that last match with a man down we're full of
Despite having to do without a number of his regular squad-members, the 58-year-old coach believes that the Germans have got it in them to keep the dream alive. "We've got a good squad who know what this is all about. We're going to try to get through to the next round and while it will be a tough match, we know that we'll get our chances. We're not going into the match all wide-eyed like the Uruguayans did. If you don't give them the time to catch their breath then Brazil are there for the taking, like anyone else. And if we can do that, then we can get through to the semi-finals."
The team is buoyed by the return of midfielder Semih Aydilek, who was suspended for the Nigeria game. He already has two goals to his name so far in Egypt and is itching to get back into the thick of things. "We'll give it our all again against Brazil," he told FIFA.com. "They're the big names but we've got a good squad here as well. I hope that we get off to a solid start against Brazil and then hopefully we'll be able to go on to win it. Our aim is to reach the semis."
Playmaker Lewis Holtby is also bristling with confidence ahead of a match which will pit two continental champions head-to-head. "Germany-Brazil is always a big match. We're going to go at it all guns blazing and achieve our aim of making it into the final four. The chance is there and we have to seize it."
Bayern Munich defender Kopplin is also looking at the quarter-final as just another step towards the ultimate destination. "We'll be trying to beat Brazil. They've got their weak points too, so why shouldn't we get the better of them? After winning that last match with a man down we're full of confidence, and if we want to win the World Cup, then we have to beat Brazil."
The South Americans can be sure that at the very least, they are going to have to fight for the full 90 minutes - and maybe more.