Germany v Sweden: Muller upbeat ahead of huge World Cup clash
Germany are in a "vulnerable" position as the World Cup holders face a premature exit but Thomas Muller remains optimistic amid the chaos.
The world champions will take on Sweden in an important Group F match in Sochi on Saturday after last week's shock loss to Mexico.
Germany were uncharacteristically poor in a 1-0 defeat, triggering widespread backlash and reports of squad disharmony, which star forward Muller dismissed in the build-up.
With Sweden in a strong position after edging South Korea, Germany's title defence could hinge on the result at Fisht Stadium and, while the heat is on, Muller is upbeat.
"We have made ourselves vulnerable. We are self-critical enough to analyse the situation, but now we must look forwards together," Muller said.
"We have two important tasks in front of us. The pressure is terrifically high, but we won't win both games if we beat ourselves up internally and look for the mistakes in each other.
"There is nothing we want more than to be successful against Sweden, you can believe us on that."
— Germany (@DFB_Team_EN) June 21, 2018
While Germany are under pressure, Sweden have been able to go about their business quietly after seeing off South Korea 1-0 on matchday one.
Sweden benefited from VAR as Andreas Granqvist converted a penalty to leave the team and Mexico three points clear atop the group.
Manchester United's Victor Lindelof missed the opener due to illness but is set to return for Sweden, who are aware how difficult it is to beat Germany.
"I've talked to some journalists, so I know what’s happening. Of course there is a lot of criticism," Sweden attacker Emil Forsberg told FIFA.com. "They came here as big favourites and have an incredible team. And if you don't win you get critics. But they are mentally very strong and I'm counting on us having to work really hard on Saturday.
"We need to perform at 110 per cent and do everything right or else it will be difficult to beat them, to even get a draw out of them. But we are mentally prepared and then we'll see how far that takes us. We are dreaming of doing something big."
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Germany – Marco Reus
Eyebrows were raised when Joachim Low named Marco Reus on the bench against Mexico, especially after Leroy Sane was not selected for the World Cup. The whole of Germany has practically demanded that the Borussia Dortmund forward start against Sweden. With his pace out wide, Reus could be the key to getting Germany's campaign back on track.
Sweden – Andreas Granqvist
Man of the match against South Korea, Andreas Granqvist will have his hands full trying to contain the likes of Timo Werner, Thomas Muller and Marco Reus on Saturday. But the 33-year-old defender is a rock at the back for Sweden, so expect him to rise to the occasion.
KEY OPTA FACTS
- Germany are unbeaten in their last 11 games against Sweden (W6 D5), with the Scandinavians' last win coming 40 years ago in April 1978 (3-1).
- The two most recent matches between these sides have produced a total of 16 goals – with a 4-4 draw in Germany in October 2012 before Sweden lost 5-3 at home in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.
- Germany have won three of their four World Cup games against Sweden (in 1934, 1974 and 2006), with their only defeat coming in 1958 when Sweden – as host nation – reached the final.
- Thomas Muller has scored 10 goals from just 14 shots on target at the World Cup, however, the Bayern Munich forward was the only outfield Germany player to not register a single shot in their defeat to Mexico and he has not had a shot in his last 239 minutes of World Cup football.