With the opening game loss to Mexico now firmly in the rear view mirror, all eyes are now on the second group game against Sweden on Saturday (20:00 CEST). That includes Mats Hummels, who spoke to DFB.de about the lessons learned from the opener, the mood throughout the team and a possible strategy that Germany might adopt against the defensively strong Scandinavians.
Mats, does the change of scenery do you good?
Mats Hummels: I don’t think where we are based is relevant. We analysed our performance on Sunday and picked out what we struggled with. Now we are trying to work on that in our meetings and in training to hopefully improve against Sweden.
You were one of the first to speak about what went wrong against Mexico. Did your criticism help?
Mats Hummels: We had the feeling that it was pretty clear what we were doing wrong, but we still repeated the same mistakes. Maybe it helped to come out and talk about our errors publicly and discuss them. In every major tournament that I’ve been a part of, so from 2010 to 2016, we’ve had to deal with a lot of do-or-die games and we’ve always fared well. But that certainly doesn’t guarantee anything for these next two games.
Are you expecting Sweden to put up a defensive wall?
Mats Hummels: Yeah, I think so. Taking into account how they’ve played in the past and how they played in the qualification playoff, and also that a draw would suit them perfectly, you can definitely guess how they will be approaching the game.
How do you think the talk on Tuesday went?
Mats Hummels: It went well, it’s part of the normal run of things. We’ve all had spells in our career for our club or country when things aren’t going so well. The talk covers the things which aren’t working so well. That’s what we did. I have a good feeling that the coaching staff are going about things in the right way; however, that’s no guarantee that everything will work straight away. But the big mistakes which we’ve made as a team should be ironed out.
Your interview directly after the Mexico game was seen all around the world. Did the impact surprise you?
Mats Hummels: I haven’t seen the complete impact of it and I have to say that I don’t read everything. Some see it as positive and some see it as negative. Different media outlets interpret it very differently.
Was your interview a wake-up alarm?
Mats Hummels: What we talked about internally was more important.
How important is the team behind the team during such a time?
Mats Hummels: They always do a superb job. They work directly with us – the physios, those who do the housekeeping and everyone else. They’ve done a world-class job ever since I’ve been a part of the national team.
Did the team psychologist have to do a lot of talking?
Mats Hummels: You only realise it when you talk to one of them. Luckily, the talks are held behind closed doors.
What’s important for the key players just before such a knockout game?
Mats Hummels: Firstly, the key players have to put in a great performance, just like everyone else on the pitch. We address the things which need to be improved upon. When the going gets tough, you have to go forward and take responsibility. We have a lot of big players in this team.
How is the mood within the team at the moment?
Mats Hummels: We’re looking forward now. Now the belief is coming back that we can turn things around. I think that the majority of the team sees it like that. We know that we can be much better.
How important are set pieces?
Mats Hummels: Really important. We scored a lot of goals from set pieces in 2014. I went through it just recently and I think there were four without including penalties and we hit the post in the final, so a set piece could have been decisive there too. Funnily enough, Mexico defended set pieces differently to how they have in recent years. Sweden will be strong in the air.
After all the analysis, doesn’t the team now need someone to put their foot down and say: “That’s enough, we’re simply going to beat Sweden!”
Mats Hummels: That doesn’t help anyone, so I think definitely not.
How are the team planning to overcome Sweden’s defence?
Mats Hummels: We need to send more players up into the box. Our positioning in the opposition’s box was a talking point. We have attacking midfielders who have to push up into the box. Funnily enough, it’s a similar theme at Bayern, where Franck and Arjen don’t always go into the box when there’s a cross in. But that’s needed to increase our threat in front of goal. We had a lot of players in attacking positions against Mexico, but too few in really threatening positions.
How is the coach dealing with it?
Mats Hummels: He’s aware of it all, but he’s not panicked at all; he knows exactly what it comes down to. And he knows he can rely on his players.
Can unfair criticism from outside the camp evoke a siege mentality within the team?
Mats Hummels: That’s a possibility. The type of criticism has become more and more extreme over the last few years. We can weigh it up. When we’re successful, we’re also praised excessively sometimes. You shouldn’t let either the positive or the negative take over your thoughts too much.###more###