October 24, 2017

Interview – Mesut Özil “We were not fearful”

The German playmaker gave a defiant yet defensive interview in Welt’s Sunday edition discussing the team’s bitter loss to Italy, Joachim Löw and Germany’s impression at the tournament.

Germany have come under much scrutiny after failing to win a title again with expectations very high after the World Cup two years ago, non perhaps bigger than of Mesut Özil who is very much the face of the “new” Germany but the 23 year old remains quite optimistic despite the disappointment and defiant of their critics.

Welt am Sonntag: Mr. Özil, how big is the disappointment two days after the match?

Mesut Özil: It is still as great as it was at the final whistle. We had such high expectations and prepared to the best of our abilities. It will take long for me to overcome this disappointment.

Welt: How did you see the game? In hindsight it seemed as though Italy were dominant. Was the feeling the same on pitch?

Özil: Football isn’t figure skating. There are always opponents that try to derail your game directly. We fought and missed some chances at the beginning. There we also lacked luck. From then on the game went Italy’s way. First chance. First goal. I wouldn’t call that being dominated but more making small mistakes. We had chances too. It is something entirely different when we press our opponents and give them chances to counter attack.

Welt: What are the reasons for the loss then?

Özil: Like I said, things just went Italy’s way. At such a level the small things make the difference. And the Italians made no mistakes there on this day. We have to admit and recognize that on the day our opponent were simply better and have to congratulate them. That is part of the game. We can’t expect to win every game. And its not a reason to discount all that we’ve achieved in the last two years in qualifying and at this tournament.

Welt: Bild magazine writes “boys against men”. Was the German team too fearful?

Özil: Not at all. We fought until the 90th minute and attacked throughout the whole second half. As a result we opened up our defense and risked conceding. We were not fearful. That the Italians are more experienced than us is another thing entirely.

Welt: Joachim Löw changed his tactics to match his opponent again. Can a strong team like Germany not just play their own game?

Özil: If it were that simple then no team in the world could play at such a level. In a semi final of a major tournament one has to know how your opponent plays and prepare. Italy too adapted their game to ours.

Welt: Another criticism is that the team has too few leaders. Someone that in the face of a loss inspires and pushes the team. Can you understand this criticism? Does Germany lack leaders?

Özil: That is too simplistic. Who is a leader figure? Lampard? Van Bommel? Rooney? Ribery? Where were they in the semi finals? There are two teams in the final that played fantastically as a team. We can’t always generalize everything after one defeat. We won 15 games with the same team.

Welt: So what is the reason that, after reaching the final four in the last four tournaments, Germany are still without a title?

Özil: To win a title everything has to go right and you need a bit of luck. I disagree that everything is questioned now. To be in the semi finals four times is a great accomplishment. We too want to win a title and do everything to get there but it’s not as simple as that.

Welt: Joachim Löw was asked after the game whether he will leave his position. Of course, he said no. Can you shed some light on this discussion?

Özil: All because of one close result we’re having this discussion? We could have scored three goals at the beginning of the match. And now we’re supposed to get another coach? Since I’ve come into the team we’ve received a lot of plaudits, especially from abroad. For many years now. And now everything is supposed to be wrong?

Welt: The National team was completely isolated in their camp in Poland. Is it really necessary to be so cut off?

Özil: That doesn’t make a difference and had nothing to do with whether Pirlo saved a shot off the line or not. When we go into town and lose it means that we had coffee and lost. We can’t base everything on results all the time. We had the perfect preparation in Danzig and were 100% concentrated, for all five games. But we didn’t have our best 90 minutes against Italy and that also had to do with the Italians.

Welt: Felix Magath said, “When you saw how passionate the Italians sang their anthem you could see their will to win. This devotion and willingness to give everything was lacking in the German team.” Can you understand this criticism?

Özil: With all due respect, we did give everything. In all our games.

Welt: Your goal was to win the title. Was this a bit too optimistic?

Özil: That’s a misunderstanding. We can’t go to the EUROs and set the semi finals as our goal. The title has to be our target but if we don’t reach that goal we can’t all of a sudden fall apart. The nature of the spot is that you can’t win everything.

Welt: And your own performance?

Özil: No player can be perfect in every game at a tournament. I leave the opinions of my performance up to others. But from abroad and from the coaches I’ve received more support than from others. But to me its most important what the coach thinks.

Welt: Looking ahead to the World Cup in 2014, what must the team do to win the title there?

Özil: The team did everything this time as well, but there the team will also need to have that little luck and a bit more experience. But we are still very young.

Welt: What are your plans now? Holiday?

Özil: Yes. But holiday is something private and something I wish not to discuss. I have a difficult season behind me and look forward to finally being able to relax.

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Cristian Nyari

Cristian is a football writer and analyst living in New York City, fascinated with the history and study of the beautiful game and all it entails. Follow Cristian on twitter @Cnyari

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