Game against Brazil is highest possible for this team: Wueck
The football equivalent of the phrase 'your reputation precedes you' could well be the cross you must bear thanks to a famous result associated with your country, whether for or against, in past competitions.
In the specific case of the German U-17 team, which will play Brazil in the World Cup quarter-finals in Kolkata on October 22, it is a double-edged sword as journalists reminded coach Christian Wueck of both the 2014 World Cup semi-final in Belo Horizonte and the 4-0 defeat at the hands of Iran in their second group game of this competition in Margao.
"It has been three years since that great win in Brazil. It's a game that we never forget in Germany, but it wasn't my team. It wasn't the Germany U-17 national team," said Wueck of the former. "It (Iran) was a very bad game -- Black Monday -- against Iran. None of my players reached their level. In a World Cup, we need to play at our best at all times. Iran are playing Spain [tomorrow], and I think this Iran team is capable of surprising the whole world. My team was left on the ground by them, but they have recovered now."
That recovery was made possible by a minor reshuffle, particularly in defence, in the following game against Guinea in Kochi. Four of the players who featured as starters and substitutes in their 3-1 win that night may not feature on Sunday -- winger Dennis Jastrzembski is suspended, while there are injury concerns about the other winger Nicolas Kuehn, and midfielders Sahverdi Cetin and Yannik Keitel. But Wueck sounded positive about his team's ability to rise to the occasion of a big match, likely to attract a crowd in excess of 60,000, most of whom traditionally support Brazil in international football.
"Not a lot of things can be greater than playing Brazil in the quarter-finals in a World Cup. It is the highest game possible for this team," he said. "It is very good that the stadium will be full and loud. It is a fact that my players will have to develop as players. If the crowd supports the other side, who knows, it might actually be a good thing for us."
While these two teams have always featured in close contests in most competitions in international football, the form team of this World Cup has been Brazil, especially with their defensive record of conceding one goal across four matches. Germany, in contrast, have blown hot and cold, though their round of 16 performance against Colombia suggested a team hitting peak form at just the right time.
"Brazil is a close, compact team. They have many good individuals, and they are tactically very European-like. It is not so easy to play against Brazil," said Wueck. "We know that they have excellent team players, who are strong and fast, but then so are the Germans. We made the European Championships with lots of goals scored [their 17 goals scored was the maximum among the four semi-finalists]. We have created a number of chances [here], but not scored as many. Hopefully, we will convert from all the chances we create tomorrow."
Wueck also stressed the need for seeing the bigger picture of development of players as against mere results at an event such as the U-17 World Cup, especially for a team like Germany that now has several players of foreign origin. Cetin himself has Turkish parentage, centre-forward Maurice Malone has American nationality, and midfielders Elias Abouchabaka and John Yeboah are of Moroccan and Ghanaian descent, respectively.
"It is great that we have players with multicultural backgrounds. Each player is different then. Yeboah is an excellent player, for instance. German football has made strong development in the last 10 years. We have several mentalities from different countries," said Wueck.
Just before the press conference concluded, the 'reputation' was back for a final go, as Wueck was asked if the fact that his team had conceded six goals in four matches already bothered him ahead of a big quarter-final.
"We are not afraid," he said. "We know we had a bad game against Iran. We knew we had to get back up after that. We are not looking back, just at the future."