Mertesacker: Germany must improve
Per Mertesacker has warned that Germany are not currently primed to enjoy a successful World Cup but told Die Zeit: "The motivation is higher than the fear of failure."
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Mertesacker, 29, is one of a host of players in Joachim Loew's squad who will go to Brazil knowing it could be their final chance to make amends for the semifinal exits to eventual winners Italy and Spain in the previous two tournaments.
Along with Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose, Mertesacker was part of the 2006 and 2010 campaigns, as well as the squads that reached the Euro 2008 final and Euro 2012 semifinals, and he said there is a determination among the players to finally end the country's long wait for success.
"Many of us are in the prime of their careers," Mertesacker, who has won 96 caps to date, said. "After all those second- and third-place finishes, the motivation is higher than the fear of failure."
Despite having a highly talented squad with an impressive tournament record, recent events have conspired to raise doubts over Germany's prospects this summer, with many key players struggling for either form or fitness.
When it was put to Mertesacker that the nation is now expecting a semifinal exit at best, he replied: "... and they think we will go out to Spain or Italy, I know, but I don't share that feeling."
He said his own confidence "obviously stems from the fact that we have super players on paper, and have at least two players for every position" but he added: "We are a long way from being able to say that everyone has found his rhythm and is in great form.
"As things stand at the moment, we will not be able to play the World Cup the way we want to play it, which is to say successfully."
When it was suggested that he was taking a pessimistic view, the Arsenal centre-back said: "The English are just as sceptical and still hark back to their past -- 'We can't do penalties' or 'We always lose against Germany.' Stuff like that."
He said that, playing alongside English, French, Germany and Spanish players for his club, they had been taunting one another in the build-up to the tournament.
"We told the English players they are going to be eliminated by Italy and Uruguay [in the group phase]," Mertesacker said. "But nobody, no matter from which country, has enough confidence to say: We'll knock you all out in Brazil."
Asked why that was the case, he replied: "At clubs we all play a very fast, hard-running style of football now and no one really knows to what extent that can be implemented in those tropical conditions.
"I've never been to Brazil, but the trip to Florida last summer gave us a clue -- that feeling of not being able to get enough air into our lungs, feeling exhausted after five minutes. More than ever, team spirit and total fitness will be decisive at this World Cup."
Nonetheless, Mertesacker is viewing this as his last chance to be crowned a world champion.
Asked whether Brazil might be his last World Cup, he replied: "It could very well be. I have told the Bundestrainer [Loew] that should he think there are new lads for my position then I will be the last person to make a fuss.
"I have been a national team player for 10 years, and have won absolutely nothing -- runners up, all the time," he joked.