Per Mertesacker: Q&A
How is the mood in the team ahead of the tournament?
In all the years I’ve been with the national team, I have rarely seen such a strong German team. That’s why there’s a lot of happy anticipation. Perhaps the loss against France has curbed expectations, but that’s not a bad thing as far as I’m concerned.
Your first year in England was difficult. Does it help in such a situation that the national coach sticks by you?
Joachim Low has known me for many years and has seen me at many tournaments, so he knows what he can expect from me and knows he can count on me. Of course that gives me a positive feeling.
You’re only 27 but have been playing for Germany for a long time. Do you consider yourself one of the veterans who lead this young team?
It’s true that I have a wealth of experience and I know quite well how the young players will feel going into their first big tournament. I’m sure I can have a calming influence on them.
Could the lack of experience become a problem?
No, the bulk of the players are actually extremely experienced and have many internationals under their belts. I’d say we have a very good blend.
After a year in the Premier League, how do you rate the chances of the English team?
As regards their potential, the English must always be rated highly. But there is a lot of strain on the players all year through because of the lack of a winter break. Under these circumstances, they will always need perfect regeneration and then excellent preparation in order to stay in a tournament to the end.
Which teams do you consider to be the favourites, apart from Spain and Germany?
The Dutch, as World Cup finalists, will definitely be strong. But I also count England, Italy and France among the favourites. All of these sides have the potential to challenge for the title, so this tournament won’t be an easy task for anybody.
Is there more pressure on Germany than in previous years?
The public feeling was different ahead of previous tournaments. Leading up to the 2006 World Cup, people were even afraid it could be a complete flop. In the years that followed, the team was built and people said: “Well, let’s see what happens. We have a decent side but everything has to fall into place.” Now we have such a good squad that there are expectations – but we also have these ourselves. In that sense, we’re putting ourselves under pressure. But the team has proved it is able to consistently challenge at the top and is quite capable of lifting a trophy. Right now we’re simply excited about the first games, because they will show straight away where we stand.
Interview Ulrich Hesse. From the June 2012 issue of FourFourTwo.