Football

'Germany will reign in Brazil'

Man United legend Schmeichel tells SAZALI ABDUL AZIZ why Joachim Loew's men will be the first team outside South America to lift the World Cup on that continent

1 The World Cup is in Brazil, and many people have put their money on the hosts to lift a record sixth title. What do you think?

SCHMEICHEL: Well, not my money (laughs). They have a fantastic team, fantastic players... they are a nation that still produces the flair players, good strong midfield players, centre halves, and dependable goalkeepers.

The problem is the pressure they will be under.

They're going to be under pressure not only to win, but win beautifully.

But, your game is not suited against everyone. Some teams are very good at stopping good teams playing.

If you don't have a Plan B or even a Plan C, then you're going to have a problem.

Sometimes, teams that play a beautiful game come across these teams and they don't have an answer.

I know how difficult it is when you're expected to win something.

It means you cannot afford to make one mistake. Winning the Confederations Cup is one thing, but the World Cup is another.

2 The social and political unrest in Brazil surely cannot help the Selecao, either...

I've no desire to even make a comment on that. I see the World Cup as a football tournament, and I separate that from all the political stuff.

You go back four years to the World Cup in South Africa, it was the same thing, and it will always be the same thing.

There's always going to be some political angle at a big sporting event that will cast a doubt over the suitability of the host.

If we do that all the time, you can never have anything anywhere.

So I see it as a football tournament and hope everything goes smoothly.

3 If you don't think Brazil will win, who are your favourites then?

I'm not saying Brazil won't win it, but everybody else is and I'm saying not necessarily so. I say there are other teams equally as strong, or maybe have more strength in depth.

My favourites are Germany. They have 23 top-quality, world-class players. Injuries and suspensions are not going to hurt them as much as they'd hurt some of the other nations.

For instance, look at the third-highest ranking team in the world now, Portugal.

Ronaldo is injured, and the big question now is whether Portugal can manage at the World Cup without him.

Germany won't have that problem. They have stars too, but they have so many of them.

4 You don't fancy other South American sides like Argentina or Uruguay?

They've got good players. Can you argue with Argentina?

In (Lionel) Messi, they've got one of the greatest players the world has ever seen.

And Uruguay have got (Luis) Suarez, even though he is injured at the moment.

But still, I think they play emotional football.

I look at Germany and the way they've evolved since the 2006 World Cup and where their football has gone, how (former national coach Juergen) Klinsmann took the very best of the German mentality and mixed it up with all he learnt from America...

Suddenly, they had a team.

They finished third on home soil then, and the atmosphere in German football changed.

The Bundesliga is absolutely tremendous, it's entertaining, there are full houses, and the national team have gone from strength to strength.

They had one bad game at Euro 2012, it cost them a place in the final, but two years on, I think they are better equipped.

Their players are just unbelievable.

5 But only South Americans have lifted the World Cup on that continent?

We're bringing incredible strength from Europe. Italy are always competitive. You look at Holland.

Belgium, my god, what a group of players they've got. France. Defending champions Spain, of course. No. 3 in the world Portugal. We are bringing some real quality there.

Yes, no European team have won in South America but the World Cup hasn't been there that many times.

There's always going to be one team that does it first. I really think all of them believe they have a chance. Europe are well-represented, so why not?

6 What about England? Roy Hodgson has some creative players like Raheem Sterling, Adam Lallana and Ross Barkley. Do you think they can 
do well?

Yes, they do (have creative players). And for once, there's no expectations as well!

I think it would be a very big surprise if they win the World Cup.

But I hope they do well.

Roy has done a fantastic job with them.

A lot of realism has crept into the British media.

But I'm absolutely sure if they win one or two games, it's all going to come back.

But it's the first time in England where, yes, there's World Cup fever, but it's not World Cup "we're going to bring it back" fever.

And that's something that will help the English players a lot.

I can see them getting through the group, and with luck... they could be the surprise package because there's no pressure.

7 Any chance a team from outside Europe or South America could spring a surprise, much like your Denmark team did at Euro 92? Ivory Coast or even Japan?

For Ivory Coast, I'll have you look at Nigeria at France 98. They had a fantastic team and a lot of people thought they could be the first African nation to win the World Cup. They played so well in the group stage, then played us (Denmark, in the round of 16), and we played our best game in the tournament there, and won 4-1.

Sometimes that lack of experience at the business end of a tournament can work against you. And since no African nation has that experience, it's always going to be so difficult.

As for Japan, I just can't see them winning it. We've been surprised by what Japan can do and obviously we have Shinji Kagawa at Manchester United, so we know their quality.

But to win the World Cup? You have to remember that every team outside Europe, are in a group with two European teams.

I think the tournament looks really strong this time and, because we get to watch games from everywhere now, we get a better feeling of who's playing. It seems to be building up to be the best World Cup in history. I hope it will be.

8 What's your best World Cup memory with Denmark?

That Nigeria game (in 1998) was unbelievable. We got through the group stage but, according to the Danish media, didn't play well.

We were quite upset with the Danish media. Then we played this game, we won 4-1, we played in a magnificent stadium in Saint Denis, and it was just one of those nights where everything you did and attempted to do came through.

The highest-scoring match in the World Cup Finals 
took place in 1954, when 12 goals were scored as 
Austria beat hosts Switzerland 7-5. The only other team 
in World Cup history to have scored five and lost were 
Poland, who were pipped 6-5 by Brazil in 1938.