Not including stoppage time, Julian Brandt has been on the pitch for a total of seven minutes at this World Cup. In that time, he has drilled two shots against the post. Described in the press as "Fast, dynamic and restless," dubbed "Löw’s last bullet", Julian Brandt spoke to DFB.de about the South Korea game on Wednesday, his former teammate Heung-Min Son and living in the moment.
DFB.de: Mr. Brandt, do you know what I thought during the Sweden game – and I probably wasn’t alone – when your shot hit the inside of the post and bounced back out?
Julian Brandt: No.
DFB.de: I thought: That’s it. It’s not meant to be today – this will be a draw and we’ll probably get knocked out.
Brandt: Yeah, a lot of people might have thought that shot was symbolic of the performance: we did so much right but just would not get our reward. We conceded the first goal through a mistake of our own, but we were strong in the second half, we had our chances, but the ball wouldn’t go in. Sweden didn’t need to do much, they were in front first and a draw would have been good for them. Time started to run out and we could feel that on the pitch as well, but the national team has always proven that we believe right until the very end. This time, we were rewarded.
DFB.de: Where were you standing during that free kick in the 94th minute?
Brandt: Centrally, in front of the goal, maybe a yard or so from the goal line – I could see exactly how it went in. The emotions just boiled over.
DFB.de: Did you think beforehand that Toni Kroos would go for it himself?
Brandt: The way Marco Reus was getting set up, you could see that Toni was going to knock the ball to him and that Marco would control it for him. At that point I did think that he would probably shoot or at least try. He hit it cleanly into the top corner.
DFB.de: Is there a danger now that you’ve left too much effort, too many emotions in the Sweden game and that the team will be weaker for the next game?
Brandt: A game like that can give you free up energy. We started with a defeat and now we know how it is – we know giving any less than 100 percent won’t be enough to beat any team here. The win did us a lot of good psychologically, mainly because at the end of the game everyone had the feeling that we’d earned it. We all know what’s at stake against South Korea; we know what our aim is. I am sure that we will be able to push ourselves again on Wednesday.
DFB.de: South Korea are a completely different opponent to Sweden. How do you need to play against them?
Brandt: We certainly shouldn’t change our game too much. We need to carry on playing like we did for large parts against Sweden. Lots of short passes, fast pace and with a lot of pressure going forward – we want to try and catch the opposition in the final third. It would be good if we could score the opening goal this time as well.
DFB.de: You also know Heung-Min Son from your time together at Leverkusen. What is he all about?
Brandt: On the ball he was fantastic and he is still at least as good now at Spurs. He’s both-footed, very quick and very dangerous in front of goal, we cannot forget that. He is a winger, but at Leverkusen he also scored a lot of goals as well as the assists he provided. As a person he is perfect: I was very good friends with him in Leverkusen. When a player moves club you do lose contact a bit, that’s normal. Heung-Min is someone who I really rate as a player and respect as a person. I played against him at the Olympics two years ago, now I’ll be seeing him again and I am looking forward to it.
DFB.de: Have you messaged each other on Whatsapp yet?
Brandt: Sometimes it’s better to meet in person. After the game I’ll gladly chat with him, but until then all the focus is on winning the game.
DFB.de: To make absolutely sure, we’ll need to win by two goals. This could be a reason to play you – after all, you have really gone for it in the few minutes you’ve played. How do you see your position in the team at the moment?
Brandt: Good; I’ve made two short appearances now and I really went for it. The positive is that my second effort onto the post was five centimetres closer than the first. The next one is going in. My position is the same as it was before the tournament: I’m trying to give my best. If I get played for five or ten minutes I’ll take that. If I come on I want to give the team an impulse and I hope everyone can see that. I put the team’s targets above all personal ambition.
DFB.de: What’s the togetherness in the team now? Since the start of the training camp you’ve now been playing, training and living together for a month.
Brandt: The atmosphere is nice. The Sweden result has brought us even closer together. The team has known each other for years – it’s clear that there is real team spirit here. We struggled to play our own football in the first two games, but we know as a unit we are in a position to get out of difficult situations, we know we are difficult to beat as a team. The atmosphere, the mentality and the togetherness is all good here.
DFB.de: Who do you spend most of your free time with?
Brandt: With a lot of them actually. I spend a lot of time with Timo, with Platte, with Gore, but also with the others. We do a lot together, off the pitch as well – we’ve got a common room here, "the living room" we call it, where we have breakfast and watch the World Cup games together.
DFB.de: Is there a split within the squad between the Confed-Cup winners and the World Cup winners? Some observers claim to have noticed it.
Brandt: I don’t think so. We all talk to each other. It’s all mixed here and it’s been like that for weeks – obviously I get along with some better than others, that’s completely normal, that you’re not everyone’s best mate. But there is definitely no split in the team.
DFB.de: Where did you see Mario Götze’s goal in 2014?
Brandt: At home with my mum. It was incredible – the whole town went crazy.
DFB.de: Have you ever fantasised: It’s the 15th July in the Luschniki Stadium and you get brought on?
Brandt: I have to say I’m very bad at looking ahead like that. In my private life I can plan about a week in advance, but after that I’m not the person to ask. The most important game is on Wednesday and the opposition is South Korea. Sometimes that sounds boring because a lot of players say it like that, but it is true. If you only care about the 15th July in Moscow, the chances of you actually playing there get much smaller.