SOCHI: Germany can ill afford another slip-up when they take on Sweden at the World Cup on Saturday, as the defending champions attempt to follow Brazil´s lead by belatedly springing into life.
Joachim Loew´s side slumped to a 1-0 defeat against Mexico in their opening Group F match, paying the price for a calamitous first half in a performance that drew stinging, widespread criticism.
Lothar Matthaeus, the 1990 World Cup-winning captain, said he hadn´t seen a Germany team “so weak at a big tournament for a long time” following the loss in Moscow.
The holders will likely be without defensive pillar Mats Hummels due to a neck injury, while Marco Reus could be handed a start after a bright 30-minute cameo off the bench against Mexico.
“Everyone is ready to fight for their lives,” said striker Timo Werner, who is again set to lead the Germany attack.
With 10 World Cup goals to his name, Germany will also expect more from Thomas Mueller at his third finals appearance.
“The pressure is terrifically high, but we won´t win both games if we beat ourselves up internally and look for the mistakes in each other,” said Mueller, with Germany to meet South Korea in their final match.
Sweden beat the Koreans 1-0 to join Mexico at the top of the section, but a stomach bug has prevented three players — Pontus Jansson, Filip Helander and Marcus Rohden — from travelling to Sochi.
They could yet make the trip separately, with Sweden also hoping Victor Lindelof can return after sitting out the opener due to an illness of his own.
“This is really what you spend your whole career and life working towards. It is an extraordinary opportunity to be involved in a World Cup match like this,” said Sweden boss Janne Andersson.
“Whether we knock out Germany is one thing, but we have a chance to qualify and that is extraordinary.”