The German national soccer team is going into the group "final" against Costa Rica in the evening. One thing is clear: a lot of goals will help, it has to be at least one. It is unclear whether Thomas Müller can help: the bare numbers clearly speak against the Bayern Munich player.
The occupation that the DFB called up at its regular press conference on Tuesday was quite explosive. Namely Niclas Füllkrug and Thomas Müller took place on the podium, i.e. challengers and top dogs in the fight for the regular place on the nine in the German national team at the World Cup. Personal animosity between the competitors could not be observed. Instead, the Bremen newcomer and his sideman from FC Bayern, who is clearly experienced internationally, burned off a veritable firework display.
Füllkrug also dealt with the most piquant topic of the media round in a quick-witted and humorous manner. "Stupid question! Do we want to continue?" He said when asked about the supposed starting eleven duel with Müller. The 33-year-old himself was able to elicit something more substantial. "We can't wait to see what the coaching team comes up with. Niclas has shown in the last three games that he knows where the goal is," said Müller, alluding to Füllkrug's decisive goal as a joker in the test kick against Oman (1: 0) and in the important second World Cup group game against Spain (1:1).
Müller himself has not had such a sense of achievement in the DFB jersey in the recent past. His last international goal came on June 14 in a 5-2 win against Italy's B-Elf. After that he remained in four missions without a hit. He missed the Oman game because of persistent hip problems.
However, Müller's dry spell in the tournament lasted much longer, namely almost eight and a half years. He scored a goal in the legendary 7-1 win against Brazil in the semifinals of the 2014 World Cup. This was followed by 16 (!) games in finals without a goal. In Qatar, Müller has so far posed almost no threat in front of the opposing box. His statistics include 137 minutes without a shot on goal. The teammates don't benefit significantly from the original Munich player either: After all, there were still three assists to a shot in the bitter 1-2 opening defeat against Japan, followed by none in the Spain game.
There, Müller was also the German with the fewest ball actions among the starting XI players (18). Also striking: in a duel with the Iberians, he lost all five of his duels. sport.de acknowledged his unfortunate performance with a grade of 4.5 and a straight 5. "In the end, you will be judged by the number of goals you played and goals scored," admitted Müller himself. He was "not satisfied" with his results in Qatar. The fact that national coach Hansi Flick recently praised the most experienced player in the squad alongside captain Manuel Neuer as an "absolute leader" and emphasized his "important role on and off the pitch" cannot hide the fact that things are getting tight for Müller in the DFB team.
Füllkrug, whom experts such as record national player Lothar Matthäus and even DFB director Oliver Bierhoff praised in the starting lineup before the showdown against Costa Rica, is seriously applying for the position in the front that Müller had filled against Spain until he was substituted in the 70th minute Line. An offensive row behind the competition is also huge. Jamal Musiala is considered set due to his skills, which are unique in the German team. Serge Gnabry has always been one of Flick's favorites. Leroy Sané is also pushing back into the team after recovering from knee problems. It is also clear that when it comes to dribbling strength and speed, Müller is hopelessly inferior to his three club mates.
So what speaks for Müller in view of the decisive game against Costa Rica and the possible further course of the tournament? His routine from 120 international matches, yes. And in terms of running, Müller, who was as busy as usual, was one of the most conspicuous Germans against Spain. But is that enough to justify further starting XI mandates in Qatar?
After all, an old companion is still standing behind Müller: Philipp Lahm, captain of the 2014 World Cup. Just like Kai Havertz, who played more badly on the nine against Japan, Müller still has a "higher quality". as a filling jug, Lahm told the "RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland". His suitability as a joker, "who comes in with the conviction that he can score in a short time", also speaks for putting the Spain hero back on the bench against Costa Rica.