Germany is two victories away from becoming the first team to win the FIFA U-17 World Cup and UEFA European U-17 Championship in the same year. They will face Argentina in the semi-finals on Tuesday having prevailed in a tense last-eight tussle with fellow European heavyweights Spain 1-0- and with confidence growing they can make history. When asked to pinpoint the key quality that has underpinned Germany’s incredible success in 2023, one word repeatedly crops up from both coach Christian Wuck and his players: mentality. “The belief is here, as it was at the EUROs,” Wuck told FIFA.
“Maybe we are the best team in believing. We don’t think about losing games, we think about winning. Mentally, we have been strong. Now, we are in the semis, we want to stay until December 2, play in the final, and win.” In the Spain clash, Germany spent significant periods without the ball against a team Wuck described as “perhaps technically the best in the world”. They dug in, however, defended with determination, poise and authority, and still carried an attacking threat through their electric forwards. Centre-back Finn Jeltsch added: “Everyone gave everything, you could see that with how we ran and every tackle we put in. It was an incredible team performance. It’s a beautiful feeling. I was against an amazing striker (in Spain’s Barcelona star Marc Guiu). You can see he has great qualities. I’m proud of myself and the team for what we did. The EUROs and the World Cup are the biggest trophies you can earn. With this team, with our mentality, we can win it all.”
Paris Brunner was Germany’s talisman in their triumphant European Championship campaign, finishing as the competition’s joint-top scorer and winning the Player of the Tournament prize. It was a moment of magic from him that ultimately decided the Spain game, as he produced a jaw-dropping piece of skill to bamboozle defender Hector Fort, who brought him down for a penalty. The Borussia Dortmund ace duly picked himself up to fire in from the spot. “Paris has not been as good in this tournament as he was in the EUROs,” Wuck said. “But we know he needs only one moment – and that came in this game. I hope this gives him a lot of confidence for the rest of the competition. He is very important for us.”
Next up for Wuck’s side is a showdown with Argentina, who will head into the semi-final buoyant following an emphatic, Claudio Echeverri-inspired, 3-0 last-eight win over arch-rivals Brazil.