World Cup holders Germany face enormous pressure ahead of their second group match against Sweden, dubbed an “early final”, with Joachim Loew’s team knowing tonight’s defeat would effectively end their campaign.
The pre-tournament talk in Germany focused on the bid to become the first team for 56 years to retain the World Cup.But after a shock 1-0 defeat to Mexico, the four-time winners must beat the Swedes in Sochi to be sure of staying in the tournament.
Suddenly, the sweet taste of victory in Rio de Janeiro four years ago seems a long time ago.
“Everyone is aware that this is our first ‘final’, it’s annoying that it comes so early, but it’s self-inflicted,” team director Oliver Bierhoff said.
An atrocious first-half display against Mexico stunned fans in football-mad Germany, who have grown used to regular success.
The World Cup winners, accustomed to easy questions from their press and the backing of adoring fans, have been stung by a swarm of criticism.
Former international players have toured TV studios, calling for under-performing players like Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira to be dropped.Behind the high walls of the team hotel outside Moscow, “frank words” were exchanged between the player.
“There has never been such strong communication within the team before,” captain Manuel Neuer said.
The German public now demands wins over Sweden, then South Korea next Wednesday in Kazan, to push them up the Group F table, putting the squad under “enormous pressure”, added Mueller.