Germany’s evergreen forward Thomas Muller is set to ink another landmark at his fifth World Cup outing against Japan on Wednesday.
One of the most under-rated players in world football, Muller is aging like old wine and still features prominently in Hansi Flick’s title hopes.
Since his World Cup debut in South Africa in 2010, Muller’s versatility, mentality and winners’ mentality has always given the Germans goals and assists assurance.
He has been there and seen that, including the regrettable group exit in Russia four years ago.
Whereas he operated alongside better gifted midfielders in 2014 as they swept to the Brazil hosted World Cup title, Muller, still pulling the proverbial strings at his beloved Bayern Munich, will have to conjure magic with a slightly less experienced crop in Qatar.
Joachim Low’s victorious side prided in a close knit group that had been assembled four years earlier and played like an orchestra.
Muller was always complimented by the gifted Toni Kroos, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mesut Ozil, Julian Draxler, Philip Lahm and Sami Khedira whereas in Qatar, he will be tasked to marshal the midfield with Jamal Musiala, Leon Goretzka, Ilkay Gundogan, Jonas Hofmann, Joshua Kimmich and Leroy Sane.
With the four-time winners struggling for a formidable ‘number nine’ as has been the case over the years, expect Muller to have added burden of expectation as Flick gambles on Kai Havertz, Serge Gnabry, Karim Adeyemi, Niklas Fullkrug and Dortmund teen sensation Youssoufa Moukoko.
A man for the big moments, Muller has decent World Cup stats in his favour – bagging 10 goals in 16 matches. He has also won the 2010 golden boot, best young players award (2010), silver ball award in 2014, silver boot (2014) and being named in the all-star team in Brazil.
Against the Japanese today, Flick, in his favourite 4-2-3-1 formation can certainly deploy Muller in the centre of the three creative midfielders operating behind the lone striker (most likely to Havertz or Fullkrug).
Possibly inform Sane on the left and Gnabry on the right of Muller as Kimmich and Goretzka do a double pivot behind them.
The stakes will heighten against 2010 winners Spain and later Costa Rica which will ultimately require Muller to share responsibilities with clubmate Musiala to provide more penetration. Bayern still offers the national team the backbone of its squad selection, and
Muller might seamlessly glide along with his other six clubmates in Qatar.
Lest it is forgotten, Flick still runs the national team much like he did at his 18-month trophy-laden stay in Bavaria and doesn’t need a second invitation to state his bold faith in Muller’s leadership abilities. Muller, 33, definitely is out to make his national team swansong count.