Mertesacker impressed by starlets

  • By: Simon Stone, Press Association Sport Chief Football Writer, Cape Town
  • Last Updated: July 4 2010, 21:35 BST

Germany defender Per Mertesacker admits even he is surprised at his country's charge towards World Cup glory.

Mertesacker and Manuel Neuer celebrate.

The Germans set up a mouthwatering semi-final with favourites Spain by virtue a four-goal demolition of Argentina on Saturday.

It came just six days after they had put England to the sword in similar fashion and confirmed just how good Joachim Low's young side really are.

Few predicted such heroics when Germany left for South Africa without skipper Michael Ballack, first-choice keeper Rene Alder and midfielder Christian Trasch.

But Mertesacker has been taken aback by the performances of the youngsters who stepped into the breach.

"I am very surprised at how well we are doing," said the Werder Bremen defender.

"We are a very young side but that has been our big secret. These players, like Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller, have come in and grown so quickly in the space of a month.

"Everybody is fighting for the team. We are all behaving like a team and we are all doing our jobs."

The England players currently nursing their badly bruised egos would do well to reflect on those words.

Although Germany's squad may end up being split by moves away from the Bundesliga - Mertesacker has been linked with Arsenal, Ozil is attracting the attention of every big club in Europe and Jerome Boateng is on his way to Manchester City - the bond between them is strong.

And no matter where they eventually finish this World Cup, Germany have already served notice that they will be major contenders for Euro 2012, the tournament that will now either make, or shatter Fabio Capello's reputation.

It is rather playing to a stereotype to confirm the German campaign has been a long time in the planning.

But that is precisely what happened, with Low confirming his own assessment following Euro 2008 was that his side were in need of a radical overhaul - after finishing runners-up.

"We tried to implement a change after the Euros," said Low.

"We wanted to give younger players an opportunity. We were willing to lose a few games - that was a risk we were happy to take - and we have brought about this change.

"Now we have introduced all these young players and they are fearless."

Are England prepared to go through the same process?

When he first took change, Capello had five friendly games, which he used to become accustomed to the players at his disposal.

Now he has another - against Hungary on August 11. If Jack Wilshere, Jack Rodwell, Kieran Gibbs, Adam Johnson and Andy Carroll were all included and the Three Lions took a mauling, would the reaction be one of understanding at a long process being started?

The chances of England ever enjoying the sustained international success Germany enjoy is minimal. But any improvement takes time and the man at the helm needs the space to make it, knowing he should be judged solely on qualification for, and then performance in, major competitions.

None of that is Germany's problem.

The only sadness for them yesterday was the soft booking Muller collected in the first half that rules him out of Wednesday's semi-final in Durban.

"I hope that my team-mates get everything right in the semi-final, then I can come back and score another goal in the final," said the 20-year-old.

"To score twice against England, and then get another against Argentina to help the team go further in the competition is almost insane."

It also offers Boateng another chance to impress a Premier League audience, having already proved why Roberto Mancini was happy to spend £10million to sign the 20-year-old defender from Hamburg.

"I don't know what Manchester City are learning about me but I know I am learning that I am lucky to play for my national side," he smiled.

"I want to come to the Premier League because for me it is the best in the world and I want to learn something there.

"I am fortunate to have the chance to make the step but for now I am just concentrating on this adventure."