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Saturday 30 August 2014

Mertesacker outburst reflects Germany’s great expectations

Published 01/07/2014 | 15:39

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Germany's Per Mertesacker jumps for the ball past Algeria's Islam Slimani during their 2014 World Cup round of 16 game at the Beira Rio stadium in Porto Alegre
Germany's Per Mertesacker jumps for the ball past Algeria's Islam Slimani during their 2014 World Cup round of 16 game at the Beira Rio stadium in Porto Alegre

The usually mild-mannered Per Mertesacker for once lost his temper, his angry riposte startling a German TV reporter who had dared ask the defender why Germany had laboured into the World Cup quarter-finals.

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"What do you want from me? What do you want?" Mertesacker snapped after Germany's 2-1 extra-time win over Algeria on Monday. "We're in the last eight and that's what counts."

Mertesacker's outburst epitomised the frustration among the Germany players who feel that, even with a victory, the fans - and media - back home in Germany will not be satisfied unless Joachim Loew's men dazzle and entertain.

Expectations in Germany are running high for a team that has reached the semi-finals of the last two World Cups - at home in Germany in 2006 and in South Africa in 2010. This is the country's "golden generation" and the nation expects the title - as do the players.

The hapless ZDF reporter had posed a question to Mertesacker that some 30 million viewers back home had wondered: why did the team play so poorly?

"Do you think it would be better if we played attractive soccer and got knocked out?" the towering centre back continued with uncharacteristic anger. "Do you think that this is just a bunch of clowns here playing in the last 16?

"I can't understand all these stupid questions right after a match,"

"We worked extremely hard for 120 minutes and fought all the way to the end, and we played well and won in extra time. It was a battle back and forth the whole way. We played courageously. Okay we let them have too many chances but we didn't give up a goal when it mattered. We won deservedly."

After Germany beat Chile 1-0 in a friendly in March, the fans in Stuttgart jeered the team off the pitch. Captain Philipp Lahm said he understood their frustration.

"I can understand the fans, the people paid for their tickets and they wanted to see something," Lahm said.

Mertesacker had regained his composure somewhat a few hours after the Algeria win, looking forward to a last eight showdown against France.

"Quarter-finals - exhausted, tired and yes ... proud ! Thanks for your support and believing in this team," he tweeted.

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