One man who has been there, slept uneasily the night before and returned with an eternal hunger for more is Mesut Özil. The German playmaker spoke to SoccerBible for our '32/12' World Cup Special to relive that match-winning euphoric moment and look ahead to the 2018 World Cup.

Mesut, what’s the first thing you think of when someone mentions the World Cup to you?

Of course, the first thing that comes to my mind is the World Cup in Brazil. That was the greatest success in my career so far.

When you think back to memories of watching World Cups, what was it like for you as a fan?

When I think back, often the 2002 World Cup comes to my mind. This was the first World Cup I really followed as a fan. In 1998 in France I had already watched as much as I was allowed to but at the age of nine I was still very young. But the tournament in Japan and South Korea I still remember very well. Perhaps it is also because both Turkey and Germany went very far at the time. There was a lot going on at home.

Do you ever think of your friends and family watching it at home when you’re preparing for a big World Cup game?

No, not really. Before a game, I just focus on the game and nothing else. I try to blend away everything around me. A game against Turkey would probably be different. I think I'd have to think of my father sitting at home and being torn between both teams.

What do you say to yourself before you go out onto the pitch when wearing a German shirt?

I have to answer such questions very frequently. Do I feel more like a German or a Turk? I can't answer that question clearly because in my heart I’m both German and Turkish. I think you can be part of two cultures at the same time. I'm incredibly proud to have the privilege of wearing the German national team jersey, because I decided to play for Germany. That was one of the most difficult decisions of my career but I grew up in Germany and that’s also my home. However, Turkish culture is at least as important for my life. That's quite normal for me.


Can you remember how you felt arriving in South Africa for your first World Cup?

Yes, I remember that very well. It wasn't an easy situation for us. Michael Ballack’s injury really changed a lot. Until then, he was the player who guided all the other guys. And suddenly this superior guiding player was out. As a result, I slipped into a new role overnight. Although I've never been in a big international tournament before, a lot was expected of me. But when I think about it, it's taken me a step further.

How do you feel now, a few months before a World Cup, compared to how you did in the lead up to 2010?

Well, as I said before, it was a completely different situation. At this point in time, I hadn't anticipated the role I would ultimately play at the World Cup. Now it's different. I know exactly what I have to do in Russia. Today, I’m the player who has to lead and integrate the younger players. But this is a task that I enjoy very much.

You’ll also have players in the squad who haven’t won the World Cup. That must be good to keep the team hungry?

Yes, of course! It's always an advantage to have young, hungry players in your team. They ensure that the experienced players don’t rest. But this is an even more special situation in the DFB-Team. With winning the Confederations Cup, the young players in particular used their chance to shine. Everyone, especially the world champions of Brazil, always have to give their best. Otherwise it can happen suddenly that you aren’t part of the World Cup squad. But in my opinion that is exactly what makes us even stronger.

What are the German fans like on the road?

I'm always surprised. When it comes to football, the Germans show that they can do things differently from the usual football clichés. At every game we play, people go out into the streets and have huge parties. Once you have experienced this, you suddenly get a completely different impression of Germany. Different cultures and people of all ages celebrate together and support us the best they can. That impresses me over and over again.


Going back to the 2014 World Cup. What did you do the night before the final? Could you sleep?

Well, I tried but woke up a lot. I didn't want to think about the game but it was impossible (laughs). Again and again I went over the tactics for the game. We went to bed pretty early that night. There was a very special atmosphere. Everyone had tuned into himself and prepared for the game in his own way.

And on the day of the game, what was the anticipation and atmosphere like when you were waiting to leave the hotel?

In my opinion, the mood at the departure was even a little more relaxed than the night before. Everybody just wanted it to finally get going. Of course, every player has his own rituals ahead of a match. But basically everybody was just hot for the game.

Can you remember the celebrations after the game?

I can still remember, but so much happened that night. What I still remember very well is the phone call with my mother right after the final. That was more important to me at that moment than any celebration. She is always there for me and I wanted to share this moment with her.

How much do you see a World Cup as a chance to show the world who you are as a player?

I don't need to show anyone what kind of player I am. I just want to give my very best to help the team and to get as far as possible at the World Cup. Ideally, of course, right into the final. Whatever people think of my performances, they are free to decide for themselves.

When you retire and hang up your boots, how do you want to be remembered as an international player?

As a two-time World Cup winner. No German player has ever done that before. But let's wait and see. No one can ever take away the title from 2014. But each player will still be fully focused again and supporting the huge effort to defend the title.

32 12 a world cup special by soccerbible_0004_3212 33.jpg

Read the full interview in '32/12' magazine by SoccerBible. Pick up the special 2018 Russia World Cup edition here.