JAN DALDRUP is the German blogger for the excellent World Cup web site http://www.worldcupblog.org/. The March issue of Half Time Heroes focuses on the World Cup favorites Germany Italy and Brazil as the count down to South Africa gets closer. http://germany.worldcupblog.org/
HALF TIME HEROES: After the World Cup draw was announced, some dubbed Group D containing the Socceroos, Germany, Serbia and Ghana has the third group of death. What was your first reaction when you saw the draw?
JAN DALDRUP: I thought that this is a group where Germany can’t afford a slow start into the tournament. Most parts of the team need to click straight away, otherwise Germany could be in for a rude awakening.
HTH: What’s been the reaction by the German management team, do they see the Socceroos as a threat?
JD: The management was relieved that some of the - on paper - big names were drawn into the other groups. But they were also careful to point out that Serbia, Ghana and Australia shouldn’t be underestimated. Australia wasn’t mentioned/singled out in particular though.
HTH: Who do you consider to be your key players and what are your teams main strengths?
JD: Michael Ballack has proven that he is still the one to pull the strings in the center of midfield. Young creative midfielders like Mesut Özil - or potentially Toni Kroos - will also be key to a good tournament for Germany.
A main strength of the team is an offense that can break most defenses both through the center or from the wings with a series of quick passing moves. You can check out the goals against Russia in both WC qualifiers as good examples. Otherwise the team has been a big work-in progress to really single out other qualities. I wouldn’t predict what other qualities the team can bring to the table in time for the tournament.
HTH: Any weaknesses that you care to quietly mention? A dodgy keeper or a suspect defender perhaps?
JD: The fullback positions (minus Philipp Lahm) are still a weak spot. There are enough talented central defenders available, but Jogi Löw has struggled to build a strong defense with them nonetheless so far.
There are still some question marks over who might partner up with Ballack in the center of midfield and a couple of strikers aren’t having the best of times at their clubs or are still coming back from long term injury.
HTH: What do you know about Australian football and are there any players you think your team should keep an eye on?
JD: I don’t follow the Australian league and I only kept an eye on the Asian World Cup qualifiers in terms of results. I haven’t seen Australia play 90 minutes of football since the last World Cup. In other words, I really don’t know a lot. I know that Australia has kept it Dutch in terms of coaching and I could name a few players.
Though, I don’t follow any of the teams/leagues they play in to know whether they are in or out of form etc. In short, Australia will be a surprise package for me.
HTH: How do you think your team will adapt to the conditions in South Africa where teams can expect high altitude, differing weather conditions and those ubiquitous Vuvuzelas that will be blasting for the whole game?
JD: I would be surprised if any of the things you mentioned really caused a problem. Wintry temperatures also won’t affect the team.
HTH: Australian fans have bought tickets in large numbers. What kind of support can your team expect in South Africa?
JD: Initially a rather lukewarm response had been reported, but it seems sales have picked up. I recently read an article that around 7,000 of 21,000 tickets available to German fans had already been sold.
HTH: Are you happy with the coach and the way the team is playing leading in to the world cup and is there anything you would change?
JD: No, I’m neither happy with the coach nor with the way the team is playing. Most of the games have been lacklustre and forgettable affairs, problems in the defense couldn’t be fixed, Jogi Löw’s man management kept being rather underwhelming etc. I have to arrange myself with Jogi Löw’s coaching and decision making, but I have hope that a very strong generation of young players can give a rather dead team the fresh impulses it needs for a successful World Cup.
HTH: Tell us the player in your team that annoys you the most and why?
JD: Heiko Westermann. He is a cool guy and all, but he’s not one to anchor a defence and Jogi Löw for some reason seems to think otherwise.
HTH: The player you like the most?
JD: Miroslav Klose. An experienced, quiet, cool team player who doesn’t just boast an amazing goal record but also sets up almost as many goals for others.
HTH: Lastly please give me a prediction on how your team will progress and also who will be the winner and loser of the World Cup?
JD: I currently find it difficult to predict how Germany will do. With the team that made it through the qualifiers, Germany won’t achieve a lot. With a fresh and revamped side Germany could once again challenge for a top four finish.
Well, Spain or Brazil is probably the easy answer for World Cup winner, and in reality it will probably be a surprise team like France.