Futbolita

Germany’s Thomas Mueller wary of ‘favourites’ tag

Thomas Mueller of Germany (Getty Images)
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HE may only be 23 but Germany's Thomas Mueller has the ambition of a champion.

In this exclusive interview with Yahoo! S.E.A via e-mail last month, the attacking midfielder who shot to prominence at the World Cup 2010, shared his thoughts about Germany's momentous ask ahead and the cultural changes reflective of the national team.

Mueller is currently in the midst of intense preparations at Die Mannschaft's training camp in Tourrettes, southeastern France.

"It's great for us to be considered a 'favourite' at Euro 2012 but that word doesn't mean anything to me," Mueller explained.

"Everyone said Germany were "favourites" at the World Cup but sadly, we didn't win it."

Nevertheless, 2010 was still a year to remember for the Bayern Munich forward, who scored five goals and set up three others to win the prestigious Golden Boot award alongside David Villa in South Africa.

He added that he had learnt a great deal from his experience, travelling to a big tournament as a 21-year-old and overcoming the pressure that followed him everywhere.

"It was fantastic for my family and me and we were overwhelmed by all the support. After all that happened, there's no doubt Germany need to win (this year's) Euro Cup for our fans and the people at home," he said.

Evidently, the pain of crashing out to the current European Champions, Spain, in the semi-finals still remains.

"Yes, I'd be lying if I said Germany went to the World Cup without an intention to win the trophy. Each of us went with that goal (in mind), but I think Spain deserved it because they played very well and knocked us out," he explained.

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THE GERMAN CONNECTION

Mueller's German teammates are also a part of an overgrowing cultural movement in football involving players from mixed or immigrant backgrounds who grow up to represent their home countries.

Joachim Low's 23-man squad travelling to Ukraine consists of players from Polish, Turkish, Ghanian and Spanish backgrounds.

Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira, Mario Gomez and Jerome Boateng are a few of the many European players born to immigrant parents who are redefining the concept of what it means to be German today.

mueller-gomez4Ozil notably picked up the  'Bambi' Award in 2011 given out to German citizens who are society's examples of 'racial integration'

"Mario, Mesut, Sami and the others are all the same and there are no differences between them and us (German-born players). Mario is a great friend (at Bayern). They have all earned their place on the team by playing well I am sure we will all have a great tournament," Mueller said.

"The coach (Joachim Low) always makes sure that all of us get along in training despite our own differences. That helps a lot," he admitted.

Mueller's technical versatility on the pitch and ability to play in almost any attacking midfield position has also earned praise from critics worldwide.

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His market value is worth €31 million ( S$49 million) but despite being a target of big clubs in Europe, he recently signed an extension to stay at Bayern until 2015.

Coach Joachim Low has frequently spoken about Mueller's ability to perform well under pressure while former Bayern manager Louis van Gaal praised his "mental strength".

"I'll always be grateful to Bayern for helping me to mature as an individual and a player and I hope to remain with them for a long time," he said.

A native of upper Bavaria, Mueller has garnered a positive reputation as a straightforward individual who "tells it as it is" to the coaches, reporters or even teammates.

During a Bundesliga match against Werder Bremen last year, he angrily confronted Dutch teammate, Arjen Robben over a poorly taken free kick.

The story made tabloid headlines in Germany, with rumours suggesting that a rift had grown between the two players.

"A TOUGH GROUP"

arjen-robben-thomas-mueller-514Ironically, Mueller will face Robben on June 12, when Germany plays out their crucial Group B encounter against Netherlands.

"Robben is a great professional at Bayern, and it will be interesting to play against him. But of course, the Dutch do not only have one player in their team — we expect that they will be attacking throughout. It will be a very competitive match and we must be prepared," Mueller said.

Nicknamed the tournament's 'Group of Death', Low's men are also set to face The Netherlands, Portugal and Denmark.

And after a painful Champions League final loss to Chelsea three weeks ago, Mueller hopes rewrite history with the German squad and lift the trophy in Kyiv on July 1.

He said: "We all go to the tournament with one aim in mind — to win it for Germany. Nothing less."


Ash Hashim is an international football journalist known as Futbolita, the 'Female Football Voice', specializing in interviews and exclusive football coverage from the European and Latin football world.