Kevin Kuranyi was among those who were in Kazan cheering on Germany in their match against Sweden. However, he was not completely convinced by the team's performance. Still, he was able to realize a childhood dream.
Sometimes a World Cup can fulfill dreams beyond your favorite team having success on the pitch. That's what happened to me at the airport in Kazan. There I ran into Carlos Valderrama, the former Colombia midfielder, who was my hero during the 1994 World Cup. His style of play and his exploding bubble of blonde hair fascinated me back then. So when I saw him at the airport, I approached him and asked for a selfie with him. He gave me a strange look, as if he thought he knew me from somewhere, but couldn't quite place me. So for him, I was just another fan, who wanted a selfie with him. Form me it was the realization of a childhood dream.
The Germans still aren't where they should be
Things went Germany's way against Sweden, when they were blessed by similar luck as I was with my selfie, and I cheered them on all the way in their last-minute victory. However, to be honest, despite the fact that Germany looked better in the second half and Toni Kroos gave us all something to cheer about with that spectacular goal, Germany still have some way to go towards getting back to where they need to be. Where is the domination, both in physical terms and in terms of play that was once the hallmark of the national team? However, you have to respect Toni Kroos for keeping his nerve and taking responsibility in that situation.
I believe it is time for Mario Gomez to be picked in the starting 11, because coming off the bench in the previous two World Cup matches, he has hinted at how dangerous he can be in front of goal. Where was Thomas Müller? I hardly noticed him out there in the first two games. Julian Draxler hasn't shown me much either. I think he needs to be played farther back, as a central midfielder, so that he can make the most of his abilities.
However, I hope that the Sweden match will have given the Germans a mental boost. That kind of experience gives a player additional energy and a sense of euphoria. For South Korea, they'll need the same level of concentration and they should enter the match with a lot of self confidence. This too will be a really difficult game.
Croatia are world class
The ease, that has been missing from Germany's game so far, has very much been part of Croatia's. The Croatians have looked really strong. The world-class duo of Ivan Raketic and Luka Modric is at the heart of their setup. I am particularly pleased for Ivan, who was once my teammate at Schalke. I spoke to him on the phone prior to the World Cup, and he sounded very confident. It looks like had his reasons. One of the secrets of their success is that the Croatians have really strong character guys in their team, like Dejan Lovren, Mario Mandzukic and Ante Rebic. As far as I concerned, the Croatians are now one of the not so dark horses for the title.
Kevin Kuranyi is covering the World Cup in Russia as a columnist for DW and a television pundit for public broadcaster ARD. Kuranyi is a citizen of three countries represented at the World Cup: Germany, Panama and his native Brazil. He made 52 international appearances for Germany and was part of the team that reached the final of Euro 2008. After a rift with coach Joachim Löw, which he has described as "the biggest mistake of my career" Kuranyi was kicked off the national team. Towards the end of his playing career, Kuranyi spent five years in Russia before hanging up his boots in 2017.