1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Schweinsteiger: Big World Cup question mark over Germany

Pascal Jochem
November 3, 2022

Former Germany captain and World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger told DW he's not sure the current team is good enough to win in Qatar. He also said the controversial World Cup hosts should be judged post-tournament.

Bastian Schweinsteiger smiles on the touchline during a German Cup match
Bastian Schweinsteiger retired from playing in 2019 after time at Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Chicago FireImage: Revierfoto/IMAGO

DW: Bastian Schweinsteiger, who is your top pick to win the World Cup in Qatar?

Schweinsteiger: I would say France. They have the most quality players and the best mix in their squad. If they all are fit, they are the biggest favorite. Just watch Kylian Mbappe… it's a joy, he's a fantastic player. But this French team also has the experience of playing in a big tournament together. Coach Didier Deschamps knows exactly what he can ask the players to do on the field. 

DW: You think France have the hunger and motivation to win back-to-back World Cup titles? We all remember Germany in 2018. The defending champions embarrassingly crashed out in the group stages…

Schweinsteiger (laughs): Yeah, I know. Who could forget that. Brazil also has a great squad of course. And the Netherlands are in a good shape, too.

Germany is not on your list of favorites…? 

Schweinsteiger: For me, there is a big question mark surrounding the Germany team. We are able to beat all the other teams, but too often we are just not consistent. It's like a wave, 60 minutes of good football and then the last 30 minutes are poor. We are struggling against teams who are defending well, like recently Hungary in the Nations League. If you don't pay attention to transition and counterattacks, you lose control of the game. At the World Cup our first game is against Japan and it could happen again.

Will Germany coach Hansi Flick sort out these problems before the tournament? 

Schweinsteiger: I believe in Hansi Flick. He knows what he's got to do. It's rather about the players and the spirit. We still have the best goalkeeper in the world, Manuel Neuer. And we have other good players like Jamal Musiala. He is fantastic. He gives us a lot of different qualities in attack that we didn't have before. What I really admire about him is that he works defensively too. If he stays fit, he is our biggest hope. He can become the player of the tournament.

Musiala, and then, in a deeper role, Kimmich and Goretzka from Bayern Munich, and you also have Gündogan from Man City. Germany's central midfield, in particular, is packed. Not all of them can make the starting eleven. Who would you pick?

Schweinsteiger: Kimmich is in my starting line-up, 100%. I also like Goretzka. He is able to cover a lot of ground and score goals. If those two can control the midfield, but also work hard against the ball and stay in position, which is important in a tournament, then we're looking good. 

Bastian Schweinsteiger and Germany teammates lift their arms aloft while wearing World Cup winners' medals
Schweinsteiger was one of the team leaders as Germany won the World Cup in Rio in 2014Image: picture-alliance/dpa/A. Gebert

Which other positions give you cause for concern in the Germany team?

Schweinsteiger: We're missing a proper striker. A real number 9 would be good to have as a backup. We also have problems when it comes to our fullbacks. But Hansi knows this and he's trying to find solutions. At the end of the day, it's not about which system you play. The players on the field, do they understand what they have to do in certain moments, especially when the game is against you? How is the reaction? Are we able to come back?

For me, it's important that we show our so-called 'German abilities': running and fighting hard. This is what we are respected for in other countries. The team has to really show it and win back people in Germany. 

It looks like the big hype around the Germany team that you experienced in your career is over. The German FA (DFB) can't sell out stadiums, the team isn't loved anymore by everyone in the country. Why do you think that is?

Schweinsteiger: I think it got better recently, especially when Hansi Flick took over from Joachim Löw. It's always both: How do players present themselves off the pitch, how do you let them shine when it comes to publicity? And then of course, how do they perform? In the end, good football matters, and players who don't give up so easily. I always admired players who fight. I think that's what supporters want to see.

There is a lot of criticism surrounding the World Cup in Qatar. Germany and other UEFA members have decided to wear a special captain's armband with the message "love" on it as a statement against discrimination and for diversity. Is that enough in your opinion?

French cities boycott World Cup

Schweinsteiger: It's definitely a good sign. It's important to show your values. But as an athlete, you can't do more than those kinds of things. Of course, you have to talk about the issues, really analyze them and be critical. But our German chancellor [Olaf Scholz] said things are improving and I trust his words. In the end, it's a sports event, it's for the players. I think you should give them a chance and form an opinion when the World Cup is over.

Your former teammate Thomas Hitzlsperger said it was "wrong" to give the World Cup to Qatar. He himself is gay and could land in jail if he were too open about his sexuality. Can you understand his perspective?

Schweinsteiger: Everyone can have an opinion. But if you say Qatar should not be a World Cup host, you should have said it years ago. That's my opinion, it's too late. We should give it a chance and then after the tournament and the whole experience talk about what was good or bad.

Edited by: Matt Pearson.