Germany’s Thomas Müller says his side must be humble ahead of their decisive World Cup group match with Costa Rica and shrugged off speculation he might be dropped in favour of the in-form Niclas Füllkrug.
Germany meet the Central Americans in Al Khor on Thursday knowing a win will send them through to the last 16 if Spain also beat Japan.
Hansi Flick’s side are the big favourites to advance but Müller says they have to work to do after an opening 2-1 loss to Japan and 1-1 draw with Spain.
“When world football looks at Germany against Costa Rica, I think we are the favourites from the outside. I think it’s absolutely clear that we have to win. But of course we have to respect them,” Müller, 33, told a news conference on Tuesday.
“We have a lot of humility ourselves. If you look at the table, we have one point, a minus one goal difference. So there is not much reason to be really euphoric.”
Germany, then the holders, were dumped out in the group stage four years ago for the first time. They lost 2-0 to South Korea in the decider.
“Yes of course we actually had a similar situation with needing a win against South Korea. Now we just have to do it differently,” said Müller, who is in his fourth World Cup.
“What has put a smile on our faces since the day before yesterday is to have the chance at all to get to the last 16 and then to be able to show the football world what we are really made of.”
The battling 1-1 draw with Spain came courtesy of an equalizer from Füllkrug. Müller had started up front as a false nine but was largely ineffective, with Werder Bremen striker Füllkrug taking his chance with aplomb in just his second international.
Several ex-Germany players have urged Flick to go with Füllkrug, 29, from the start.
“My role has always been the same, I try to get forward,” Müller said, brushing off the question about whether his team-mate threatened his place in the team.
Füllkrug himself was more forthright when asked the same thing.
“Stupid question,” he said.
He later added: “As a striker, I have a job where you can be a hero,” but good play by defenders or goalkeepers should not be overlooked.
Füllkrug hopes supporters and players can now concentrate on the football after weeks of controversy over Qatar’s hosting of the tournament and rows over rainbow-coloured armbands in a country where same-sex relationships are illegal.
“The other issues are dying down. Football is in the foreground again. I’m very happy about that,” he said.
“We are just extremely happy as a national team when we are supported.”
Füllkrug, who was playing in the German second tier this time last year, said he had the feeling “that one or two people online are more than pleased when we fail…which I found very unfortunate.”
Flick meanwhile gave three starters from the Spain game – Leon Goretzka, Thilo Kehrer and David Raum – a rest from training later Tuesday.
Leroy Sane, who like Füllkrug had come on against Spain after missing the Japan game owing to knee problems, was training with the team but his knee was taped again.