GERMANY will have their backs to the wall when they take on Costa Rica in their final Group E match and know they must bag their first win of the tournament, preferably by a large margin, to have any chances of advancing.
The Germans are bottom of the group having gained only one point from their two matches so far, raising the spectre of another first-round exit following their early elimination in Russia four years ago.
Even victory over the Costa Ricans may not be enough, and Germany will be looking to Spain to inflict defeat on Japan to open the door to the next round.
Spain top the group on four points ahead of Japan and Costa Rica, both on three.
Four-time world champions Germany will be hoping to score a bagful of goals against Costa Rica, who had just one shot on target in their two matches.
A win over Costa Rica coupled with victory for Spain will see Germany advance but a draw between Luis Enrique’s side and the Japanese, or even a win for Japan, would bring goal difference in to play.
Scoring has not been a strong point for Hansi Flick’s team but centre forward Niclas Fuellkrug’s excellent run for club and country in recent months has improved their prospects.
The 29-year-old, an unlikely addition to the squad prior to the tournament, snatched a late equaliser against Spain after coming on as a substitute to keep their hopes alive going into the final group match.
The burly striker is now a serious option to lead the line on Thursday with many German pundits and fans demanding he start.
However, assistant coach Marcus Sorg dampened expectations over Fuellkrug, saying he was “not a cure-all” for the team’s problems.
“We have to see what effect which player has at any given time,” Sorg said. “We need a certain structure, stability and security. Security comes with consistency.”
Fuellkrug said he hoped his goal had put the focus back on football, after a tumultuous lead-in to the tournament marked by concerns the German side was not doing enough to address Qatar’s human rights record.
“I feel that some people, especially online, are happy when we don’t do well, which I think is a pity.
“We are really happy because it feels like the World Cup atmosphere is coming out (and) football is now front and centre, which I am especially glad about.”
Whatever line-up Germany go with, they know their task is to preserve what remains of their once powerful tournament reputation, having failed to win the first two matches in a World Cup group for the first time. — Agencies