What’s your opinion on people talking about Madrid’s lack of consistency, and your issues in LaLiga this season?
Well, the first thing that occurs to me is that we can’t be doing that badly when we’ve got six players in the Spain side; there’s a reason for that. There are also a lot more who have played for Madrid before and who have been called up by Lopetegui. That says something. I don’t think it’s because Madrid have a special competitive gene but of course we do have many of the best players in the world in every position. The quality level at Madrid is extremely high and that’s why we have half a dozen teammates in the Spain squad. There are players from Barcelona, Atlético and other teams playing for Spain as well but the basis of the side is made up of Madrid players.
We’ve been in the finals of the biggest club competitions in recent seasons and we’ve won them. And then you have to look at the quality of the players we’ve got. I’m not going to suddenly discover Isco, Asensio and Sergio Ramos in Friday’s game. We’re talking about world class players and that’s why I’m not surprised that Spain has so many Madrid players in the squad. And that’s something that I’m very grateful for as well.
So will those players be of concern to you when you play against them?
Germany are also a great team. We are the reigning World Cup holders. It has been during my time at Madrid that I have learned not only how to win titles, but also how to defend them. It’s going to be an attractive game to watch and also a good test ahead of the World Cup. I wish all my teammates from Real Madrid all the luck in the world, just not in Friday’s game in Dusseldorf or in Russia, although we can’t meet until the semi-finals anyway. And it would be wonderful for both sides if we meet one game away from the final. But we can’t get ahead of ourselves. The World Cup is a very difficult competition.
There will be a lot of Liga and Bundesliga-based players in Friday’s game. What can we expect?
A great game of football. I know what the level of the game in Germany is and it’s very high. And of course I know the Spanish game very well, and it’s magnificent. It could be the case that the Spain players don’t know exactly what they’ll be up against tomorrow, because I don’t think they watch the Bundesliga as much as I do. But aside from that, what Germany has, apart from an excellent group of players, is strong team spirit. That’s what has allowed us to dominate the Fifa rankings over the last few years.
Kroos: "Germany are capable of retaining the World Cup"
And what do Spain have in your view?
Spain were the dominant force in international football between 2008 and 2012 on the back of a beautiful playing style, the famous tiki-taka that mirrored Barça’s style over the same period. But now they play a different kind of game. They have gone through a change of identity. Up front they have a big and strong striker, they still have wonderful playmakers in midfield but now they are more direct. In any case they are an extremely good team and one of the favourites in Russia along with Germany, Brazil and a couple of others to win the World Cup.
Are Germany capable of retaining their title in Russia?
I have experience in that regard because I had to defend the Champions League title with Madrid, and we managed to do that. One of the most difficult things in football is to maintain the sufficient level to keep on winning, but it is possible if you have the best players and if you keep your competitive spirit and ambition intact. We have done that at Real Madrid and Germany are capable of doing the same.
"Ter Stegen is the perfect keeper... for Barcelona"
What’s the secret to achieving that?
Above all team spirit, which is based on encouraging your teammates and believing in them. Positivity has to permeate throughout the squad and then you build on that. Quality and the ability to go through tough moments against difficult sides is also very important.
Germany are without Manuel Neuer, who is injured, leaving Barça keeper Ter Stegen to wear the number one. What do you think of him?
I like Ter Stegen a lot, maybe too much… [laughs]. Marc is one of the best in the world and without doubt he is the perfect keeper… for Barcelona. The best thing about Ter Stegen is that he makes very few mistakes. He’s perfect for Barça because he starts moves from the back and there aren't many keepers who can do that.
After Spain you’re playing Brazil, who are missing Neymar. Is that a good thing for Germany?
I would have preferred it if Neymar was fit to play and I wish him a quick recovery from his injury. Neymar is one of the best, and I like to play with the best.
Marcelo and Casemiro will be on the opposite side…
This is no small feat, because they are two of the best in the world in their respective positions. At Madrid it has been evident how important Casemiro is in maintaining the balance of the side, and what can I say about Marcelo? He is the best left back on the planet. Brazil are definitely among the favourites to win the World Cup.