2014 World Cup: Why Thomas Muller is so important to Germany's World Cup Hopes
To be fair, this premise can just as easily apply to Bayern Munich, but with Germany knee-deep in their World Cup campaign, let’s take a closer look at the unorthodox, yet brutally efficient Thomas Muller and why he is so crucial to his national side.
Muller was poised to have a huge World Cup and praise heaped in from all corners following his devastating display against Portugal in Germany’s World Cup opener.
His three goals currently put him atop the scoring charts, and at just 24 years of age, he has already bagged eight goals in seven World Cup matches.
Four years ago in South Africa, Muller surprised everyone and won the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top goalscorer. This year, he is already ahead of the pack after only the first game and on his way to winning the Golden Boot back-to-back for the first time in World Cup history.
After the Portugal game, Muller jokingly said that one goal was better than the other (link in German), but the truth is that they were characteristic Thomas Muller goals: effective, opportunistic and scrappy. He won’t have many “Goals of the Year” candidates, but he’ll win you games.
Muller may not be the most technical player. He may also not even impose himself on games like some other players do, but there are few who combine ruthless efficiency with the timing and instinct the way Muller does.
He is not an out-and-out forward, he’s not a winger nor is he an attacking midfielder in the traditional sense. Muller is hard to define even by today’s standards. But that’s what makes him such a unique and dangerous player.
Manager Joachim Low has used him primarily out on the right since he made his international debut, but his interpretation is loose to say the least. You won’t find Muller in just one place during a game. Instead, he will roam inside, pick up the ball in his own defensive third and be the team’s target man.
Against Portugal, Low utilized Muller in what most would call the ‘False 9′ role, but Muller was again constantly on the move. He doubled up on Cristiano Ronaldo on the right, he came into the middle to help Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira win the ball back. And, of course, he was there to finish three of Germany’s chances.
Former Germany international Mehmet Scholl said it best after the Portugal game when he said Muller is not a False 9, but a wild 13 (link in German). Muller is his own category of player; an attacking player with the instincts of a striker, the workrate of a defensive midfielder and the positioning and timing of a playmaker.
Perhaps what defines Muller more than anything is his eerie ability to constantly appear in the right space at the right time.
Low’s assessment (translation via FIFA.com) of Muller above describes him to a tee. It also points out just why he is so crucial to this Germany team. Low has rotated a dozen attacking players in the last four years, but Muller has always been a constant.
What Muller brings to the table is unique. Among the many technically brilliant, yet sometimes overly calculated and predictable attacking players, Muller offers an element of surprise. An edge in attack.
Some players have patterns of plays and runs that repeat themselves. Muller rarely makes the same run or move twice.
Some players suffer dips in form that visibly affect their performances, slumps that completely remove them from matches. Muller can have a quiet 89 minutes but come up with a moment of brilliance that wins his team the game.
The comparison with his namesake and legendary goalscorer Gerd Muller is inevitable and appropriate. Both score goals in every way, with every and any body part and do so consistently at the biggest stage.
If the current German generation has been criticized for lacking a killer instinct or mentality to turn talent into trophies, that stands in stark contrast to Thomas Muller, who is never fazed by the occasion and relishes adversity.
His personality also complements the rest of the team. Muller serves as a constantly reliable outlet, a player that will take the pressure off others and one that can turn a poor pass, touch or cross into a goal.
Despite all the Gotzes, the Ozils and the Krooses, Thomas Muller may still be Germany’s most important player and key if they are to end their 18-year trophy drought this summer in Brazil.