World Cup: Only victory will do for wounded Germany against Costa Rica
DOHA – Wounded Germany will have their backs to the wall when they take on Costa Rica in their final World Cup Group E match on Thursday and know they must bag their first win of the tournament, preferably by a large margin, to have any chances of advancing.
The Germans are bottom of the group having gained only one point from their two matches so far, raising the spectre of another first-round exit following their early elimination in Russia four years ago.
Even victory over the Costa Ricans may not be enough, and Germany will be looking to Spain to inflict defeat on Japan to open the door to the next round.
Spain top the group on four points ahead of Japan and Costa Rica, both on three.
“I think if you look at the table, Costa Rica still has a chance to reach the round of 16,” said Germany coach Hansi Flick.
“If they and Spain win, they can reach the next round. So I’m assuming we will face a defensive team, like they did against Japan (in their 1-0 win). It’s important for us to find good solutions against that.
“We want to try to win the game early on, but that will be difficult. After the 7-0 loss to Spain, Costa Rica’s defensive performance against Japan was good and we respect that.”
Ideally, four-time world champions Germany will hope to score a bagful of goals against Costa Rica, who had just one shot on target in their two matches.
Flick has a plan, but it is nothing too far away from how they usually play.
“We want to have a high intensity, be active and have possession of the ball,” he said.
“We want to force the opponent to make mistakes, that also means a lot of pressing. We want to stand for attractive and modern attacking football.”
A win over Costa Rica coupled with victory for Spain will see Germany advance but a draw between Luis Enrique’s side and the Japanese, or even a win for Japan, would bring goal difference in to play.
Scoring has not been a strong point for Flick’s team but centre forward Niclas Fuellkrug’s excellent run for club and country in recent months has improved their prospects.
The 29-year-old, an unlikely addition to the squad prior to the tournament, snatched a late equaliser against Spain after coming on as a substitute to keep their hopes alive going into the final group match.
The burly striker is now a serious option to lead the line on Thursday with many German pundits and fans demanding he start.
Veteran forward Thomas Muller, like his coach, also urged his teammates not to underestimate Costa Rica.
“When the football world looks at Germany versus Costa Rica, we are the favourites and it is clear that we should win,” he said.
“But we are staying humble. We have only one point and a minus one goal difference, there’s no reason for us to be euphoric.”
Costa Rica coach Luis Fernando Suarez, meanwhile, is not expecting an easy game despite Germany’s struggles.
“The next match on Thursday will obviously be just as tough (as 1-0 win over Japan),” he said.
“We will have to apply the same pressure as in the past two games.”
Separately, Stephanie Frappart will become the first woman to referee a men’s World Cup match after Fifa announced on Tuesday that she will take charge of this match. - REUTERS, AFP