Will Germany's World Cup debutante, rising star Musiala emerge as X-factor?

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Probably the most circulated footage in German sports activities media prior to now yr reveals Jude Bellingham sitting alongside Jamal Musiala, each 17 on the time and sporting England jerseys. The image spotlights the friendship between two gifted gamers who as soon as performed towards one another at ping-pong tables and online game consoles, and have now grow to be dominant within the German Bundesliga. Whereas Bellingham already had his first statement performance for England on Monday, his good pal is set to do the identical on Wednesday when Germany meet Japan in World Cup Group E.

“I feel now we have a extremely good group with which we are able to get actually far,” Musiala tells ESPN. “The standard is there to be a contender for the title. We go to this event with the mindset to have the ability to win the cup. You must consider in it. I do.”

The 19-year-old has travelled to Qatar with enormous ambitions and the result of Germany’s World Cup title quest is dependent upon Musiala greater than some folks could understand. Through the first half of the season, he was the standout participant at Bayern Munich, the place head coach Julian Nagelsmann has begun to construct your entire system round Musiala as his No. 10.

Germany head coach Hansi Flick, who mentored the up-and-coming expertise throughout his time at Bayern Munich and wished him to decide on Germany over England (the place Musiala had performed for Chelsea‘s academy from 2011 to 2019) has additionally recognized his former pupil because the centerpiece of his offensive construction, with Musiala offering a component of unpredictability due to his dribbling abilities.

“Musiala is a primary instance of what we wish to name a ‘needle participant’ — a participant who carries the ball via small gaps and tight areas in-between a number of opponents. His method, however particularly his agility and fast decision-making, permit him to do this like not many others,” says tactical analyst and coach Martin Rafelt.

Musiala could very nicely be probably the most gifted pocket footballer on the planet alongside Barcelona and Spain midfielder Pedri. The conflict between the 2 heavyweights on Sunday could possibly be epic. However whereas Pedri is broadly admired in Spain, Musiala continues to be underrated in some fan circles at dwelling. One reporter not too long ago famous that Germany’s soccer has been predominantly about counter-pressing and depth prior to now decade and {that a} skinny teenager with mild ft contradicts a perception system.

“A enjoying fashion like Musiala’s is commonly considered too dangerous, however it’s immensely precious to interrupt down compact defenses, particularly to do this shortly and ceaselessly with out the necessity of being extraordinarily affected person,” Rafelt explains. For many years, Germany’s fashion of soccer has revolved round passing. The World Cup-winning groups of 1974, 1990 and 2014 all relied closely on exact and clever passes, whereas dribbles have been a lot much less outstanding. Musiala embodies a extra provocative fashion in that he purposely strikes into closely coated areas and takes on one and even two opponents.

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“I feel I play extra offensively than final season the place I used to be typically used as a No. 6 and needed to be taught that first,” Musiala says. “Now, I’ve discovered a place during which I really feel actually snug. I additionally like my rhythm and take it from recreation to recreation.”

What helps Musiala other than his pure footballing abilities is how he offers with psychological stress. The shut relationship along with his mom, who raised him and his youthful sister on her personal, and the truth that he reveals barely any curiosity in luxuries helps him give attention to his recreation.

“In my time as a reporter, I’ve met few gamers who’re so down-to-earth, which for my part isn’t solely because of the truth that he has not been a part of this millionaires’ recreation for lengthy but in addition due to his character and mindset,” says Munich-based journalist Kerry Hau who has been following Musiala since he arrived at Bayern in 2019. Hau additionally attributes Musiala’s humbleness partially to his upbringing in England the place academies is usually a bit tough for younger prospects. “He’s a man who had nothing gifted to him and needed to work arduous for every thing.”

Being decided and pushed in his occupation lets him perceive the sport faster and strategy it with extra maturity than most 19-year-olds even on the highest stage. “I all the time attempt to work on myself,” Musiala explains. “For instance, my scoring in entrance of the objective was already good. However, I labored arduous on it to be as environment friendly as attainable, principally with [Bayern’s] assistant coach Dino Toppmoller after coaching. Now, I am much more typically in positions from which I can shoot. We prepare precisely the conditions that I additionally get through the recreation. The sort of objectives I rating now, I’ve already executed in coaching.”

Musiala’s capability to not solely create goal-scoring alternatives for others via his dribbles but in addition his urgency to attain himself could also be essential for Germany through the World Cup, because the four-time champions wouldn’t have a top-class striker of their squad.

“He has outgrown the prospect standing because the summer season, which you’ll be able to inform from how he interacts with reporters,” Hau says. “He’s rather more relaxed and never so shy anymore. He’s a person now who doesn’t have any points to maintain up bodily and with the calls for of enjoying within the beginning line-up each three days.”

Maybe some discover it worrying that Flick has to depend on a 19-year-old who’s at present in his second full season on the senior stage, however Musiala is undoubtedly a generational expertise with unparalleled qualities. “He shares a enjoying fashion with Mario Gotze and to a lesser extent with Kai Havertz, Leroy Sane and Julian Brandt, however he is ready to do it with extra drive in the direction of the objective than Gotze and wishes even much less house than the opposite three,” Rafelt says.

Mario Gotze was Germany’s golden boy a decade in the past who fell from grace within the years after his World Cup-winning objective in 2014. Due to a resurgence within the Bundesliga following a transfer to Eintracht Frankfurt this summer season, Flick has given Gotze a brand new probability by choosing him for the World Cup squad. The on-the-pitch similarities between Gotze and Musiala are a bonus for each in that Gotze can function a backup for the beginning playmaker, whereas Musiala might be able to profit from Gotze’s expertise.

A mentor-like determine for Musiala is Manchester City‘s Ilkay Gundogan, who has been quoted telling Musiala throughout video games that he would shield the areas behind him as a result of Gundogan needs his younger team-mate to thrive. The veterans who have been a part of the 2018 World Cup marketing campaign which resulted in a bunch stage exit know that Musiala brings one thing to the desk nobody else can.

His unpredictability is precisely what Germany may have, significantly in video games during which lengthy spells of possession go nowhere. It absolutely is a heavy activity for a 19-year-old to grow to be a possible difference-maker for a nation like Germany, however Musiala has the instruments to deal with it.



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