The usually mild-mannered Per Mertesacker for once lost his temper, his angry riposte startling a German TV reporter who had dared ask the defender why Germany had laboured into the World Cup quarterfinals.
“What do you want from me? What do you want?” Mertesacker snapped after Germany’s 2-1 extra-time win over Algeria on Monday. “We’re in the last eight and that’s what counts.”
Mertesacker’s outburst epitomised the frustration among the Germany players who feel that, even with a victory, the fans — and media — back home in Germany will not be satisfied unless Joachim Loew’s men dazzle and entertain.
Expectations in Germany are running high for a team that has reached the semifinals of the last two World Cups — at home in Germany in 2006 and in South Africa in 2010. This is the country’s “golden generation” and the nation expects the title — as do the players.
The hapless ZDF reporter had posed a question to Mertesacker that some 30 million viewers back home had wondered: why did the team play so poorly? “Do you think it would be better if we played attractive soccer and got knocked out?” the towering centre back continued in anger.
“Do you think that this is just a bunch of clowns here playing in the last 16? I can’t understand all these stupid questions right after a match. We worked extremely hard for 120 minutes and fought all the way to the end, and we played well and won in extra time. We played courageously. Okay we let them have too many chances but we didn’t give up a goal when it mattered. We won deservedly.”
After Germany beat Chile 1-0 in a friendly in March, the fans in Stuttgart jeered the team off the pitch. Captain Philipp Lahm said he understood their frustration.
Germany coach Joachim Loew brushed aside criticism that his team are a far-cry from winning a fourth World Cup after they struggled to a 2-1 extra-time last 16 win. “It’s not a stroll in the park in the World Cup,” Loew told German TV. “There are always some matches like this in a tournament where you have teams that fight hard, where the opponents are defending really tough and playing aggressively.”
Loew, whose fancied team lost in the 2010 semifinals as well as in the 2006 last four, pointed out that he had warned Algeria would be dangerous opponents. “You need matches like this one at the World Cup. At some point you’ve got to expect a match will go into extra time.”