World Cup: Germany on Tenterhooks

Germany, after a shock 1-0 defeat by Mexico, must beat Sweden today to be sure of staying in the tournament. This is the first crisis facing coach Joachim Low after 12 success-filled years, with Germany reaching at least the semi-finals of every major event since taking charge.

“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.

Germany have vowed that the acres of space they gave Mexico, who attacked at will in the first half, will not be available to Sweden.

Despite the likely absence of Mats Hummels, who has a neck injury, assistant coach Miroslav Klose is confident Die Mannschaft will put in a good performance in Sochi.

“We play the best games under pressure. That’s why, as far as Saturday is concerned, I’m very positive,” the World Cup’s all-time leading scorer with 16 goals told German daily Tz. “We have people who have to deliver now and we have the character to come first.”

Spain are the only team to win the World Cup after losing their opener, lifting the trophy in 2010 despite beginning that campaign with a 1-0 defeat by Switzerland.

Cesc Fabregas, who played in the title decider eight years ago but was left out of this year’s squad, knows the nerves the four-time winners will be experiencing today.

“It is a different feeling once you have lost your first game at the World Cup – Germany’s players will know that now,” the Chelsea midfielder wrote in his column for the BBC. “Germany are walking a tightrope now and it is down to how they handle that pressure, knowing they cannot afford any more mistakes. It will be during the hours before the game when they will feel it the most.”

Sweden defeated South Korea 1-0 in their opener but their preparations ahead of today’s clash have been less than ideal.

Andersson revealed that defenders Pontus Jansson and Filip Helander, along with midfielder Marcus Rohden, were left behind at the team’s tournament base to avoid any danger of their illness spreading. But the hope is that they will rejoin the squad in time for the match.

“We have split the squad. We didn’t bring them on the flight because we didn’t know what had made them feel a bit queasy, but they will travel tomorrow,” Andersson said at a press conference at Sochi’s Fisht Stadium yesterday.

Defender Victor Lindelof, who missed their opener due to illness, could return, but striker Isaac Kiese Thelin is a doubt with an ankle problem.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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