Four years ago, he was lifting the World Cup aloft in Rio but Philipp Lahm says he's content with a watching brief this time around. The former Germany skipper tells DW about the current crop and the other contenders.
DW: Mr. Lahm, how are you enjoying your time in Russia? What are your first impressions of the host nation?
Philipp Lahm: I'm doing very, very well because I'm back at another World Cup and that is always enjoyable. The chance to come and see plenty of matches is always nice and I was, as always actually, greeted with a warm and heartfelt welcome.
What has impressed you most about your time in Russia so far?
Right now, I'd have to say that it's clear the people are incredibly excited about the World Cup. They're delighted to be hosting this incredible tournament.
What is it like not being actively involved this time? What are the feelings now that you're watching others play?
It's given me a chance to appreciate another perspective of the game and everything that goes on behind the scenes. It's nice to be able to appreciate, or better appreciate, everything that goes into an event like this. As a player you're purely focused on the game. Now I can actually take in the stadiums, get a better feel for the organization and that's nice because you see things from a different point of view.
So we've got a very relaxed Philipp Lahm in Moscow?
Very relaxed. Tournaments like this are always something to behold. To be able to experience some of what it has to offer as a fan is incredible. It's been years since I was able to enjoy a World Cup as a supporter.
How do you rate Germany's chances at this World Cup?
Their chances are good. There are players who boast a lot of experience, have featured in several major tournaments, who all play their domestic football in the top league and regularly feature on the international stage, above all in the UEFA Champions League. Then you've got a handful of talented young players on board, who can gain experience and bring new life to a side like this. That's why they have good conditions to go far in the competition.
Despite the disappointing performances in recent friendlies?
Yes, I believe that's something that sets the German national team, or the players apart. Many of them regularly compete on the international stage and they have the experience and know when to focus even more, to ensure you're as prepared as possible for the opening game. Then you've got pre-tournament friendlies, where you can see that the players weren't at 100 percent when it came to their concentration levels or match sharpness.
Is it fair to say then, that Germany struggle in friendlies but are the better for it when it comes to the real thing?
I've also seen incredibly good performances from the German national team in friendlies. At that stage though, you're in your preparation phase. You're desperate for it to finally be about winning points, for the tournament to finally start and so I wouldn't read too much into those performances.
How about the other teams here — who are your favorites and why?
I count Brazil, Argentina, Spain, France and Germany among the favorites. I think that, in terms of quality, they all have very, very good players. In the past we've seen that the big footballing nations always have a big role to play in major tournaments because they have experienced players at their disposal. They're the ones who know how to produce on the pitch when it matters most.
Let's talk about Germany's bid to host Euro 2024. What are your thoughts? Why should the rest of Europe come to Germany?
First of all: A European Championship is always an opportunity and we've already proven that we're capable of hosting major tournaments. We have the passion and excitement in our country, as well as the infrastructure and stadiums that would likely only need to be tweaked for the Euros. We've put in a fantastic bid with a sustainable concept, which has not always existed, and that's why I believe we would make a very good host nation.
How do you feel about Germany's chances of being named the Euro 2024 host?
I'd say they're 50-50. There are two bids, from us and Turkey. I have full faith in our team and the bid we put in though. We've got some advantages, like the ones I just listed off, but after that it's out of our hands. But I'm always a positive person and I'm confident that we'll get the reward for our hard work in September.