The Germany national team suffered a shock 1-0 defeat to Mexico in their World Cup opener. Centre back Jerome Boateng, who had his work cut out for him during the game, spoke to us the following day about the fifty-fifty challenges in the first half, the tremendous support from the Germany fans and a possible strategy for the next group game against Sweden on Saturday.
DFB.de: For the first time since 1982, Germany have lost the opening game of a World Cup. Mr. Boateng, what are the reasons behind this defeat in your view?
Jerome Boateng: We didn’t win enough challenges, especially in the first half. We had spoken so much in the days before about how we need to work together as a team, and that just wasn’t good enough in the first half. In parts we lacked passion – we can have bad games; that happens, but our fighting spirit needs to be there. Football is still a game with two teams fighting, and we didn’t fight in the first half.
DFB.de: At one point your team was able to flick the switch – Germany had a lot of chances in the second half. Toni Kroos actually hit the crossbar before half time as well, then Julian Brandt hit the post with seconds left to play.
Boateng: That’s true. That save by Ochoa from Toni’s free-kick was good, but it was still difficult, even after half time. The Mexicans just waited for the chance to counter – they stood firm at the back and it was tough to get through. In the first half we also had a huge chance through Timo Werner, but it wasn’t quite enough for a goal. We need to be more courageous going forward: we played it square too often, played it back, didn’t make enough runs off the ball, we were too predictable. We said the games against Austria and Saudi Arabia were only friendlies, but yesterday it was our World Cup opener, and we needed to approach it differently. It’s no surprise we didn’t win enough challenges.
DFB.de: How are you feeling the day after?
Boateng: I was tired at the end, but I pushed through. It was my first game back at this level since my injury that I’ve played for the whole 90 minutes. I didn’t want to come off, but then I also thought that it would help to have some fresh legs with more attacking power. Now we have a bit of time between now and Saturday to prepare ourselves for the next game. We will have to give our all against Sweden and obviously show a very different side to our play. But it certainly won’t be any easier than it was against Mexico.
DFB.de: Anything other than a win against Sweden is likely not enough. How much pressure is there on you?
Boateng: We cannot play for a draw. But we can’t just go hell for leather and throw everything forward. The most important thing is that we play with more drive. We have to take more risks in the final third, even if that means losing the ball a few times. We have to take more shots.
DFB.de: There was still a good section of fans that stayed after the final whistle to support the team, even after a loss. How does it feel to have support like that?
Boateng: I had to go into the dressing room very quickly, because I needed to get treatment as soon as possible. I was able to follow it on TV still, though. All of us are extremely thankful for the amazing support.
DFB.de: 26 million watched on in Germany. Does it give you a boost to know that?
Boateng: Yeah definitely, they’re all here with us at the World Cup in spirit. Now the team needs to respond and give them something to be happy about.