FIFA – Gnabry: We’re fired up for this World Cup

Serge Gnabry is set to make his World Cup debut, having missed out in 2018 through injury. FIFA chatted to the Germany attacker in the build-up to Qatar 2022.

At the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, Serge Gnabry’s only involvement for Germany was to cheer the team on from home in front of the television after injury had deprived him of a chance to play on the biggest stage. Four years on, at 27, the Bayern Munich forward is finally preparing for his World Cup debut and in this interview with FIFA, he shares his thoughts on coach Hansi Flick, the team’s evolution in style under him, and Germany’s opponents in Group E.

How would you describe Germany’s path through qualifying?

Serge Gnabry: It went perfectly. Obviously the opponents probably aren’t the ones you’ll face in decisive games at the World Cup, but it’s still not easy to win the games we managed to win in qualifying. The fact that big nations sometimes fail to qualify underlines that fact. But we’re always there.

What is he like on and off the pitch?

It’s a perfect combination of being laid-back, having fun and working seriously. You can make a couple of jokes but then you need to go back to being fully focused. He wants you to be at 100 per cent both in training and in matches, and he pays a lot of attention to the details. He’s also relaxed off the pitch, so it’s really enjoyable.

You know Germany coach Hansi Flick well from your time together at Bayern. What is your relationship with him like?

We’ve got a good and close relationship. I know him from Bayern but I also knew him from the Germany set-up because he was involved with the youth teams. So we’ve known each other for a while now and he always gets on well with the players. That personal connection is one of his strengths and it’s extremely helpful for a coach when you have a good rapport with your players.

What is the difference between his previous style of play and his current one? Is there a difference?

There are always some minor adjustments of course but overall, the way we play is very similar. We had a lot of success with his style at Bayern and it’s getting better in the national team too. Things might be slightly different here and there, but it’s similar to how it was at Bayern.

Are there any differences to the way you played under Joachim Low?

Yes, it’s a little bit different. We focus more on pressing and getting forward more aggressively. I’d say those are the things that are a little different under Hansi Flick. Previously, it was more about having possession, having a composed build-up and keeping control.

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What is the atmosphere like in the squad? Is it different compared to the EURO last year?

The sense of anticipation is the same. We set ourselves high objectives as the German national team and we want to do well. So I don’t think there are many differences. We’re looking forward to playing again after things didn’t go so well for us at the European Championship. That’s why I think we’re a bit more fired up for the World Cup, if you can put it like that.

How much of an advantage is it that you already know so many players in the squad?

It’s always an advantage. There are a lot of players from Bayern who I get on well with – we’re very familiar with each other. The same group of players have been involved with the national team over the last few years, with a few exceptions, so you build a bond. We always have a good time and it’s fun because we know each other well as a team because of all the games we’ve played together.

How do you view the fixture against Spain? It will be a meeting of two giants of the world game.

We want to win. I think it will be decisive in terms of winning the group or finishing in the top two. We have to win the match and we want to win it. We still have the memory of our last defeat so we want to make amends for that.

How would you describe Germany’s group with Spain, Japan and Costa Rica?

We know that our last game against Spain wasn’t very good [a 6-0 defeat in the UEFA Nations League in 2020]. I wouldn’t underestimate Japan. They’ve got a lot of players who play at the highest level, for example in the Bundesliga or in the Premier League. I’m looking forward to that game. Costa Rica are maybe the underdogs but at a tournament everyone gives their all. We need to approach every game with the same respect and motivation and perform to the best of our ability.

Are you looking forward to making your World Cup debut?

Yes, I’m very excited to be playing at my first World Cup at the age of 27. Unfortunately it’s taken a while but I’m looking forward to the tournament and I hope we’ll be successful.

What are your expectations for the Germany team in Qatar?

A successful tournament. We have big plans. As I said earlier, the European Championship didn’t go very well for us, so we want to make up for it at the World Cup. We’ve got the quality and we’ve recovered from that difficult tournament. That’s why we’re going to Qatar with confidence and the clear aim of being successful.

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