Football

Oezil must deliver for Germany like good friend Khedira

Sami Khedira has delivered when needed but Mesut Oezil has been a peripheral figure for Germany

SEMI-FINAL

BRAZIL v GERMANY

(Tomorrow, 4am, SingTel mio TV Ch 141, StarHub TV Ch 223 & MediaCorp okto)

Firm friends and ex-teammates at Real Madrid, Mesut Oezil and Sami Khedira make starkly contrasting contributions to a Germany side that will face Brazil in the World Cup semi-finals tomorrow morning (Singapore time).

Oezil is, perhaps, Germany's most-gifted ball player, blessed with superb vision and technique, and a keen eye for goal.

But he is also one of their most frustrating performers who has a habit of drifting away from the action.

By contrast, Khedira - who returned from a serious knee injury shortly before the Finals in Brazil - is the classic midfield workhorse, whose tireless running and tackling seldom get recognition, but which are vital to the team's success.

Both could have a crucial role to play tomorrow morning as Germany, eliminated at the last-four stage at the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, seek to secure their first appearance in a World Cup final since they lost to Brazil in 2002.

Oezil was one of Germany's brightest stars in their run to the last four at the World Cup in South Africa four years ago, but has failed to consistently recreate that form at the latest edition of football's global showpiece.

It was a similar story at Real, and the theme endures at his new club Arsenal, with rare moments of brilliance punctuating a series of lifeless displays.

Khedira, 27, who has a Tunisian father and a German mother, has not been an automatic starter in Brazil but, when coach Joachim Loew has deployed him, he has turned in typically energetic displays.

His season at Real was wrecked by the knee injury sustained playing for Germany against Italy last November, but he returned in time to start May's Champions League final, when Real came from behind to see off city rivals Atletico Madrid. He has 50 caps for his country and four goals.

Born to Turkish parents in the western German industrial city of Gelsenkirchen, Oezil had stints at Bundesliga sides Schalke and Werder Bremen before his performances in South Africa captured the attention of big-spending Real.

Surplus under Jose Mourinho, he was sold to Arsenal where, after a bright start, he failed to live up to early expectations. The 25-year-old has made 50 appearances for Germany, scoring 18 goals.

OUT OF POSITION

Former Germany captain and midfielder Lothar Matthaeus noted that Oezil has been playing out of position on the wings of midfield in Brazil, away from his preferred central role.

"Some players don't play in the same positions they do for their clubs," Matthaeus told fifa.com on Sunday.

"You can see that clearly with Mesut Oezil. He normally plays in the centre of the park, and now he's on the left.

"His body language isn't right, and he doesn't seem as happy as usual. But he has to play there to get a game and he's giving his all."

Loew's assistant coach Hansi Flick rejected suggestions that Oezil had been a flop at the World Cup when asked about his role at a news conference on Sunday.

"We see that differently than you do," he told reporters.

"Mesut is playing a different position now than he used to, and he's got a different assignment now.

"He's got very strong skills with the ball, and on top of that he's improved during the course of the tournament.

"We're very satisfied with Mesut. He brings a lot of confidence with the ball into our game, and is always ready for a pass." - Reuters.


Mesut is playing a different position now than he used to, and he’s got a different assignment now... We’re very satisfied with Mesut.

— Germany assistant coach Hansi Flick

Knowing Brazil inside out

That no European team have won any of the previous six World Cups in Latin America is not a daunting prospect for Germany, as they head into tomorrow morning's (Singapore time) semi-final against hosts Brazil, according to assistant coach Hansi Flick.

Three-time World Cup winners Germany are confident that two years of meticulous university research - combined with their own scouting and preparations for the conditions - will give them an edge over five-time winners Brazil on their home turf.

"We're very, very well-prepared and we're looking forward to playing Brazil," Flick said, when asked about how Germany planned to end the dominance of Latin American teams when playing in their own region.

"We've been working on this project for the last two years, and our entire system has been built up for that."

Germany are undefeated in Brazil, but have not had to face a Latin American team yet: their four wins were against Portugal, the United States, Algeria and France, with a draw against Ghana.

Major European rivals such as Spain, Italy and England have already been beaten or knocked out by South American teams.

To get ready for South American teams, Flick said that Germany have benefited from a giant database, put together by a team of about 50 students at Cologne's sport university over the last two years.

That information, combined with scouting reports, are used for detailed analyses of Brazil and their players.

"The sports students in Cologne have been studying, in great detail, our opponent and put every play they've run, every newspaper article on them, and everything about them out there under the microscope, and made all that data available to us," said Flick (below).

"We've got this enormous database to draw upon and, together with our scouts, we're able to take a close look at our opponents and make our plans for the match.

"We've been able to cull some very high-quality information from all the data from the students. It's very much helped us prepare."

Germany have been turning to the student researchers at the Deutsche Sporthochschule Koeln increasingly over the last decade.

ENTHUSIASTS

Former Germany coach Juergen Klinsmann first began tapping the data accumulated by the students, most of whom are football enthusiasts and thrilled to be working on a project that could possibly help, even in a small way, to win the World Cup.

While the students are sworn to secrecy about their intelligence gathering, their professor Juergen Buschmann and head of the project has been quoted in German newspapers saying the students use an eclectic variety of sources to chronicle such things as how players react in pressure situations, what are their preferred routes, how they react when fouled, what gets under their skins and how they sprint for the ball.

The intelligence has come into special focus for the World Cup in Brazil, in part because Germany have never won here on the continent with their three World Cup titles won in Switzerland (1954), West Germany (1974) and Italy (1990). - Reuters.

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