Paris: Some assume that something tragic has happened to Germany's striker Thomas Mueller. Five games at Euro 2016 without his name appearing on the scoring sheet is a real surprise.
But is it something to be worried about ahead of the semi-final on Thursday? Fact is, after central forward Mario Gomez is unable to play due to a muscle injury, goal-less Mueller is one of the top topics within the German team. While thinking about the reasons for Mueller's lack of firepower against France, the Germans desperately need a turn-around in his fortunes, reports Xinhua.
German head coach Joachim Loew is not a coach known for panic attacks, he still isn't quite at ease before the clash against one of the big guns of Euro 2016. While some pundits and German fans are suggesting Mueller should take up a place on the bench to give his mind and body a break, having Mueller in the team is a must for Loew. "I'm sure, he will help us with a goal or two when we need it most," Loew said in advance of the duel against the tournament host.
Without Gomez on board, time seems to be running out slowly. Meaning: The France game could be Mueller's last chance. After winning the Golden Boot at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa (five goals) and his five goals at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, expectations couldn't have been higher. After all, Mueller scored 32 goals in 49 games for his club Bayern Munich but at the same time is yet to score at a European Championship.
Time to say goodbye to the lack of goals, Loew says. But even without a goal, Loew cherishes Mueller's value for the German squad. The Bavarian is one of the best in man-on-man situations and still keeps defenders busy. So far Mueller has tried to remain calm calling it "fun and pleasure" when looking "at our togetherness".
"I'm relaxed and only talk about this topic because it seems to be an important one for others. I didn't set myself any goal-scoring targets," he said.
Muller, with his often unpredictable runs and unconventional ideas, provides the necessary injection of anarchy the German game desperately needs up front.
So is Mueller just bothered by an ongoing Euro 2016 crisis or is he just exhausted after a long season. Is he a victim of the increasing number of games that top-class players like him have to play? In the last two months of last season he only managed to score four goals in all competitions and even missed a penalty against Italy, not to speak about several chances beforehand.
"Mueller has lost his big ease," declared former German captain Lothar Matthaeus. "He has to try to get back the ease with which he plays the game."
Without Gomez, Mueller might come closer again to the position he plays beside Robert Lewandowski at Bayern Munich. So far Mueller has played on the right flank for Germany which he was not entirely happy about. That exactly might be one of the reasons for his goal dearth. Against France Mueller might get more opportunities in the box depending on Loew's line-up.
"Of course it's annoying not to score when you get chances but in the first place we need to work well as a team. As we know from many tournaments, strikers have to help out at the back as well," said Mueller, who went to to point out: "In the national team, you don't insist on always playing in your favourite position. Our goal is to win the tournament and therefore we have to work as a team. Everyone has to deliver. We are not here to fulfil individual hopes and wishes."
So far Mueller has taken things as easy as possible. His answers in short TV interviews after training sessions and games are full of subtle humour and on the pitch, Mueller answers with jokes and a broad smile when things might seems to be going against him. After the dramatic penalty shoot-out against Italy and his missed penalty, Mueller was asked if the Germans still want to win the trophy. "No we don't, not at all. Our aim is to be knocked out in the semi-final, just like it was right from the start," Mueller answered laughing his head off.
"We are envied around the world because we don't rely on a single player to slice open the opponent's defence," Mueller said. "We are called #the Mannschaft', meaning, we are a real team."
Mueller and the Germans might first and foremost rely on their team-spirit but against such a strong side such as the French, they may well look to a player to deliver some magic moments and Thomas Mueller is the kind of player that can do just that.