Wednesday 06 June 2018, 07:51

Berthold: Germany are not clear favourites

  • 1990 world champion speaks to

  • Memories of Mexico 1986

  • "We’re up there with the biggest teams, but we aren’t the clear favourites"

When the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ kicks off in just a few days’ time, the reigning champions will understandably be the focus of special attention. Can Germany become the first team to defend their FIFA World Cup crown since Brazil’s back-to-back triumphs in 1958 and 1962 and earn the right to stitch a fifth star on their shirts?

There is still plenty of optimism about their prospects despite the fact that they are without a win in five games. "We are always up there with the biggest teams,” 1990 world champion Thomas Berthold told “When you look back through the history of the World Cup, three nations – Brazil, Italy and us – have won 13 titles between them. I don’t think any other team has reached the semi-finals as often as Germany. And whenever you reach the last four, there are many factors that you can’t account for, particularly when you go toe-to-toe with other top sides."

Despite Germany’s impressive record, Berthold was quick to sound a note of caution. "We are not the clear favourites. France, Brazil and Spain are all ahead of us and Argentina are more or less the dark horses of the tournament."

Berthold in numbers

  • Played at three World Cups

  • 1x world champion (1990), 1x runner-up (1986)

  • 62 international caps (1 goal)

  • Tenth most-capped German player in World Cup games

  • Clubs: Eintracht Frankfurt, Bayern Munich, VfB Stuttgart (all in Germany), Hellas Verona, Roma (both in Italy)

Coach Joachim Low’s side will begin their World Cup campaign against Korea Republic, Sweden and Mexico in Group F. Berthold believes they need to secure top spot, then "grit their teeth and focus on the knockout stages. They’ll need to give it their all in the group, and after that it’s a matter of ‘go big or go home’."

The former centre-half has particularly vivid memories of Germany’s first opponents, El Tri. "My first World Cup was Mexico 1986 and we faced the hosts in the quarter-finals in the inferno that was Monterrey. It was terribly hot and humid,” he recalled. “After my opponent fouled me, I eventually lost the plot and was given my marching orders thanks to a moment of madness – quickly followed by the man who fouled me. Luckily I was back for the Final. Playing at the World Cup there was an incredible experience."

Berthold is certain that another unforgettable tournament will unfold in Russia this summer. "The stadiums are top quality and the Russians love their sport. I hope their team make it beyond the group stages to keep the euphoria going."

Berthold on...

...2014 World Cup Final goalscorer Mario Gotze’s omission from this year’s Germany squad: "If you pick players based on performance, it’s completely understandable. He simply hasn’t earned it this year, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be back again one day."

...national team coach Low as a club coach: "I can’t imagine Low wanting to return to the stress of club management. Continuity is good in football if you’ve been successful, and that’s been the case for the DFB for more than ten years. If he’s motivated to stay on, he’s the right man for the job and can easily carry on until 2022."

...the burden of going into the tournament as defending champions: "Four years is a long time, as the squad has changed and there are plenty of new players around now. Of course, you’re now the team to beat, for starters. A lot needs to happen to defend the title. We had a great team in 1994 too, but there were other reasons why that didn’t work out."

...his visit to the FIFA World Football Museum in Zurich: "It’s just so impressive. The architecture is a tremendous success; it’s a beautiful building. There’s something for young and old alike and plenty of technology. There is all kinds of memorabilia, it’s exceptional. The history is priceless."