Kazan Arena (Russia) (AFP) – Joachim Loew has called on holders Germany to be “masters of our own destiny” when they face South Korea seeking to avoid an embarrassing early World Cup exit on Wednesday.
Despite a last-gasp 2-1 win over Sweden, Loew’s team are in danger of becoming the first German side to fail to make it past the opening round since 1938 after a 1-0 defeat to Mexico in their first match.
The coach, who has come under heavy fire in the German media, tipped misfiring Thomas Mueller to find his scoring touch after two underwhelming performances by the Bayern Munich front man.
Germany will guarantee progress to the knockout phase if they win by two clear goals but they must find a way to counter a South Korea team Loew described as “fast, nimble and dangerous on the counter-attack”.
“I don’t really know what chances South Korea have of winning this match and I don’t know ours either,” Loew said at Kazan Arena.
“But we have to be clear about what we need to achieve. We have to score two clear goals over our opponents and that will see us through. We have to be masters of our own destiny tomorrow.”
Although few have given South Korea a chance of causing an upset following defeats to Sweden and Mexico, all four teams are still mathematically in contention for a top-two finish.
– Mueller misfiring –
Four years after Mueller contributed five goals as Germany triumphed over Argentina in Brazil, Loew said the misfiring Bayern star was keen to make amends.
“After the match against Mexico we tried to analyse his way of playing with videos and clips. He’s very open to comments and critical in his self-appraisal,” explained Loew.
“He’s the kind of player who, despite one or two negative matches, still has a positive mindset.”
Loew said the mood in the camp after the Mexico match was downbeat but it changed radically following their dramatic comeback against Sweden.
“After Sweden, it was pure elation,” he said. “Without that win we would have been in a precarious position. There was relief, but we weren’t hysterical either.”
Germany are without Bayern midfielder Sebastian Rudy after he suffered a broken nose against Sweden, while centre-back Jerome Boateng is absent through suspension following his sending-off in that match.
Boateng could be replaced by Bayern defender Mats Hummels, said Loew: “Mats can play, he’s trained the past two days and could line up tomorrow.”
With so many permutations, Loew admitted Germany would be keeping an eye on Sweden’s clash with Mexico, which also begins at 1400 GMT.
“It goes without saying we’ll be constantly informed about the result between Sweden and Mexico, so that we can react if need be,” he said.
“I wouldn’t over-emphasise this…. but it’s important for us to keep focused on what we need to achieve.”