Somewhere in the mind of Christian Wuck, alarm bells would have been ringing as early as the sixth minute. Iran had just scored their opener against Germany, albeit with a bit of good fortune. But the ease with which it had come should have been worrying for the man who also helmed the German team during their last campaign in Chile.
By half-time, the Iranians had doubled their advantage. If truth be told, the Germans had been lucky. The Iranians had missed some of the easiest of opportunities. It seemed as if the Asian team's players were the ones leaving the pitch the unhappier of the two.
Second half brought along more of the same. Try as they might, Germany failed to claw back into the game. Iran, on the other hand, grew stronger. By the full-time whistle, they had scored four past Germany's goalkeeper Luca Plogmann.
"It's hard to find words," Wuck said at the press conference after the match when asked to describe the game.
Thankfully, his wards found their feet and Wuck found the words in the next match against Guinea as they won 3-1 to seal their entry into the next round. The result was, in part, the consequence of the five changes Wuck had made from the Iran match. Two of the players he brought in — Josha Vagnoman and Yann Bisseck — were particularly effective on the night.
But even this match wasn't without its share of scares for the Germans. After Jann-Fiete Arp had given Germany the lead thanks to being at the right place at the right time, Ibrahimah Soumah equalised for Guinea. The goal would have brought back memories of the Iran match, given the scrappy nature of it.
But instead of capitulating like in the Iran game, the German players soldiered on and ended up on the winning side. Not only were their forwards clicking, their defenders, marshalled by Alexander Nitzl and Dominik Becker were not getting carved open with the same ease as they did against Iran.
"It was very hard for us to come into this game after the result against Iran. It was a very, very bad game from our team. The reaction back home to that result was not so good, so pressure on my players was very high," Wuck said after the match.
So, what changed between the two games?
"Mentality," said Arp after the win over Guinea.
"After the Iran defeat, we knew we had to change something. Sometimes there are days where nothing goes the way you want it. So we knew we had to do something differently against Guinea and we had to change it quickly. We changed our mentality. We worked on our mentality and went in the match with a better mindset," Arp added.
All through the game against Guinea, Arp was constantly on the move. At times, he dropped deep in the midfield to help his teammates out.
After all, the German national team do not lose by that margin. Much less lose by that margin to an Asian team.
The fault lay in the team taking the Iranians too lightly before the match and therefore losing focus going into the match.
One of Wuck's closest aides, Rainer Zietsch, didn't mince his words. "Iran is a very good team. They played a difficult game against us. But we played our worst game of the last one year," Zietsch told Firstpost on Saturday.
"One theory was that we didn't show them too much respect. Our players admitted this after the game. Some of them thought playing against Iran was not too much of a problem," he added.
Zietsch said in the aftermath of the Iran defeat, the key to them bouncing back against Guinea was the personal sessions they did analysing where the team had gone wrong.
"After the Iran match, we sat down with the players and we asked them what went wrong in the Iran match. Not only group sessions, we had individual sessions with the players too to understand what had gone wrong.
"We told the boys that we need to change this or we will be on a flight home after the last group match. Because of the Iran result, we learnt that there's no team that can win the World Cup at 50-60 percent. You have to give 100 percent in each game. Therefore they changed their mentality," Zietsch told Firstpost.
Having re-discovered their focus after the upset against Iran, the Germans will take on Colombia on Monday at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. The European heavyweights know they can ill afford another slip-up.
After all as Arp said, "The best teams in this age group are here."
Published Date: Oct 16, 2017 10:46 am | Updated Date: Oct 16, 2017 10:46 am