Former United midfielder Markus Neumayr took some time out of his pre-season (yes, already!) with newly promoted Swiss side FC Vaduz to answer some questions about his thoughts on the chances of Germany and Switzerland in the World Cup.
The questions were asked by Michael Garvey.
As a German yourself, what is your opinion on your country’s chances at this World Cup?
Germany has always been a team that knew what it takes to play in tournament like the World Cup. In this actual team, there is a great mix in experienced players like Klose etc and young, promising talents like Götze, Schürrle or Durm who want to set their mark in a major tournament like the World Cup. Obviously they had some problems in the preparation for this World Cup,but if they will have a positive start against Portugal then they can go all the way and win it for the fourth time in our history.
You open your campaign with a tough game against Portugal, we’ve already seen one major upset so far in the tournament with Holland humbling Spain, do you think the likes of Ronaldo can cause the German defence serious problems and possibly do the same?
For me Portugal is among 2-3 teams who are favourites to win this tournament. They got many quality players in the likes of Ronaldo, Pepe, Coentrao, Moutinho, Meireles, Vierinha or Nani. But also for them it is very important not to lose their first game because Ghana and the USA seem to be also up for the task to reach the last 16.
As well as Portugal, Germany’s group also includes Ghana and the USA, neither of whom are deemed to be pushovers, do you think there is chance of a shock and the team not qualifying from the group at all?
The possibility of a shock has never been as high as in this tournament. We already saw Uruguay and Spain struggling making an impact in this World Cup. The tricky conditions in which they have to play in all over Brazil will be a very big task for every team in this competition. As for this reason in every group we can expect exciting and tricky games especially for the big favourites in every group.
Marco Reus, Mario Gomez, Ilkay Gundogan and Lars Bender have all been ruled out of the tournament through injury, how big a loss will this be to the team and do you think it will affect the way they play?
In my opinion Reus is a major loss for the national team. He was on top of his game and he has played an outstanding campaign for Dortmund. He had a great impact in the game of Germany. The other 3 players would not have played a major role anyway as they were injured most of the season.
35 year old Miroslav Klose has been named in the squad for his fourth World Cup, how vital will his and other senior players experience be if they are to progress to the latter stages of the tournament?
As I said before,it always very important to have experienced players in the team who will lead the group and help to learn how to cope with diffulties in and off the field. They have to guide the way and then younger players like Durm, Schürrle or Götze can make a big progress for this team in the World Cup. The best example was set by the new coach for United, Louis van Gaal. Nobody understands so well to integrate new promising and exciting talents in a team that has 5-6 experienced players. But who followed him the last few years already saw that he has this great ability and ambition in every club he is in. For example in Bayern Munich he pushed in Thomas Müller and Holger Badstuber in the team. Before they were not even regular starters for the second team.
There has been speculation as to whether Germany will adopt the Bayern or Dortmund approach to the game, which do you think would suit the team better?
I think they have to find their own way in approaching an opponent and playing their game. The style of play between Dortmund and Bayern is massive. Dortmund plays an attacking football with speed and tactical cleverness. Bayern is keen on keeping possession and creating chances in finding spaces in between the defending lines. Both approaches will be very difficult in Brazil. The climate is a huge factor and neither style will push them to success.
What is your opinion on Franz Beckenbauer being banned from all football related activities by FIFA for refusing to cooperate with the investigation into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups?
It is very difficult to judge these things what the FiFA is doing at the moment. Nobody has a clue what is really going on behind the scenes. As for this reason it makes it impossible to have a fair say on this story.
You currently play in Switzerland, what has the atmosphere been like in the country during the build up to the tournament?
The atmosphere is great. There is real enthusiasm going around in this country. The last few years players from Switzerland made the step into the big leagues of Europe and they seem to have a great impact in the likes of Shaqiri, Lichtsteiner, Stocker etc… But it will be interesting to see how the Swiss national team can build up a team spirit that is needed to have a say in this World Cup.
Switzerland are in a group that also includes France, Ecuador and Honduras, what do you make of their chances of qualifying for the knockout stages?
I think they have good opportunity to reach the last 16. The key games will be against Ecuador and Honduras. If they get at least 4 points in these 2 games then they should make it.
The Swiss are currently ranked sixth in the FIFA world rankings, do you think that they could be potential dark horses for the tournament?
For me, Switzerland is not a dark horse anymore. They proved the last few years that they will be no pushovers. The most interesting thing will be to see how they cope against teams like Germany, Holland, Brazil or Argentina.
How important will players like Xherdan Shaqiri and Stephan Lichtsteiner be if the team are to do well in the tournament?
They have to be the key players and make the difference in every game if they want to make it into the quarter finals.
Switzerland are managed by legendary manager Omar Hitzfield, who is retiring after the tournament, how much of a factor do you think his determination to go out on a high will be on his team’s performance?
For the team it will not be a factor. Everyone wants to have a good campaign and go as far as they can.
The team scored 17 goals in their 10 qualifying matches, while their opponents in the opening game, Ecuador, scored 20 in 16 matches, do you think the game on Sunday night has the potential be a high scoring encounter?
This is a tricky question. On the paper it should be but I think both teams will be keen on not conceding the first goal. Because both teams have their strength in playing counter attack football. Moreover the climate conditions will not help them in playing a high tempo football.