Why Germany are walking a tightrope & how good has Ronaldo really been?

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    It is a different feeling once you have lost your first game at the World Cup – Germany’s players will know that now.

    Straight away the pressure is on the holders after their surprise defeat by Mexico, because they must win their second game in Group F against Sweden on Saturday. Even if they beat South Korea in their final game too, they could still be out depending on other results.

    Germany are walking a tightrope now and it is down to how they handle that pressure, knowing they cannot afford any more mistakes.

    It will be during the hours before the game when they will feel it the most. I have been there, when I was part of the Spain team that lost our opening game of the 2010 World Cup, against Switzerland.

    We are the only side to have done that and gone on to win the tournament, but that defeat left us in a really difficult situation. Even though we beat Honduras in our next game, we knew we had to overcome Chile in our last group match or we were out.

    World Cup 2018: Germany 0-1 Mexico highlights

    ‘The silence on the bus was close to scary’

    As I said on BBC 5 live’s World Cup Daily podcast, that Chile game in South Africa is one of the most stressful games I have played as a professional, and I remember very well what happened before the match.

    Our coach, Vicente del Bosque, held a team meeting at our hotel two hours before the game and then we took the bus to the stadium.

    I have never known anything like the silence on that bus journey – it was close to scary. For half an hour, you could not hear anything because everyone was so focused and, in a way, a bit frightened.

    We had just come from winning Euro 2008 and we were favourites for the World Cup and, if we drew or lost, we would be gone.

    We could not let that happen, and it was definitely more stressful than the build-up to the final. I am sure the Germany players who were also part of the team that won it four years ago are thinking the same way.

    World Cup 2010 final highlights – Netherlands 0-1 Spain

    Going out in the group stage would have been a huge disappointment – we were afraid we would let the whole country down.

    But in the final, against the Netherlands, we were playing with the motivation to be world champions. And you cannot say you let the whole country down when you are playing in a World Cup final.

    ‘Sometimes it is good to panic a bit’

    When the Chile game started, it was very tense – I was on the bench and could see all of the players were nervous, but we also stayed calm, maybe because of our experience.

    The pressure I have been talking about was not too much for us once the game had started, even in situations like that one. It happened naturally for us and I could just let go and think, ‘I have to play how I know’.

    Highlights – Chile 1-2 Spain

    Germany have to do the same against Sweden, and in some ways it is important for them not to panic.

    But it is also important not to just think, ‘Don’t worry, we will win this one’, because if they think that way they will not be ready, and they will probably lose that one too.

    It is good sometimes to panic a little bit, especially for the top teams like Germany, Spain, Argentina and Brazil, who all failed to win their opening games.

    It can be a positive to feel that pressure, so you realise that if you don’t do well next time, you are going home.

    Spain did win their second match – against Iran on Wednesday – but they did not create many chances and it was not the best game.

    All those teams are superior to the opposition they have faced, but none of them has shown their best form in Russia, which is why they have found it difficult.

    This is a World Cup and, as we have seen, if you are not at your best level then every team is very well prepared and can make things difficult for you.

    ‘A better World Cup defensively than offensively so far’

    One thing I have noticed from the big teams is that there has been a lack of vision and creativity in the final third of the pitch and, individually, most of their star players have failed to shine too.

    Whether it is man-marking the opposition’s best player or defending with at least six players all the time, everyone tries to find a way. It has been working, but the World Cup has been better defensively than offensively so far.

    Mexico had Carlos Vela following Toni Kroos around for 60 minutes because they knew he was the engine of the Germany team, the one that makes them tick. Switzerland did something similar with Valon Behrami on Neymar when they played Brazil.

    World Cup 2018 highlights: Argentina 1-1 Iceland

    Iceland did not put one player on Lionel Messi when they played Argentina, but they had so many players back, he had no space.

    Seeing Messi stopped does not happen often, so you have to give Iceland credit that they did it so well. I could see that Leo, as the game went on, was dropping back to try to make things happen.

    When he does that, he is no longer on the ball in dangerous areas and, if I were him, I would be getting a little bit frustrated.

    You want him higher up the pitch, so you can pass the ball to him in the final third and let him make things happen there.

    But if he feels that he is not getting the required service, he drops deeper and deeper and, for Argentina, that is not a good thing.

    It was a similar story for Messi against Croatia, but it was not all his fault. As I said in my TV analysis after Argentina’s defeat, they look like a broken team.

    So it is has been really difficult for him. He does not have the quality in behind him, when he needs someone who can help him build up the play.

    ‘Ronaldo’s goals have come from set-pieces, penalties or mistakes’

    World Cup 2018: Portugal 3-3 Spain highlights

    These days, Cristiano Ronaldo has a very different role for Portugal – he mainly stays up front and you no longer see him running all over the pitch.

    He is one of the big names in Russia who has made a strong start to this World Cup, in terms of goals, with four so far.

    Yes, he is playing well, but if you really look at what he has done, he has scored one penalty, one free-kick, one goal from a corner and one with a shot that David de Gea should have saved.

    You cannot say that he and Portugal have shown great combinations or tiki-taka football to score great goals.

    You have to give him credit, of course, but his goals have come from set-pieces, penalties or mistakes.

    In terms of the individual players who have impressed me the most, Vela deserves a mention for what he did against Kroos.

    Vela left Real Sociedad to join Los Angeles FC at the start of the year and people seem to think that when you go to the MLS, or that type of league, your level drops.

    That was not the case when he played against Germany, because Kroos could not shake him off. He tried but he could not influence the game.

    Germany still had possession, but it was possession without ideas and creativity.

    Of every team I have watched so far in Russia, Germany are the ones from whom I expected more and they gave me less. Mexico were completely the opposite.

    View the original article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/44567806

    Cesc Fabregas was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan in Moscow.

    2018 Fifa World Cup on the BBC
    Host: Russia Dates: 14 June – 15 July
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