Twice at the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018, Bayer 04 Leverkusen's Julian Brandt has been Germany's super-sub – or at least has come within inches of being so. In the 1-0 defeat to Mexico in the world champions' opener in Moscow, the 22-year-old – selected ahead of Leroy Sane – rattled the outside of the post with a rasping drive in the closing stages. Then against Sweden Brandt came even closer, shaking the inside of the post with a fierce volley from the edge of the box.
Had Toni Kroos' sensational free-kick not gone in at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi, then the Bremen native's woodwork-rattlers would have gone down as pivotal near-misses in a catastrophic German World Cup defence; as things stand, Germany and Brandt have been gifted another chance against South Korea on Wednesday – and both are determined to take it.
Knowing a two-goal win will assure Germany of a last-16 berth, Brandt spoke at length to DFB.de. Here, bundesliga.com has abridged and translated that interview.
Question: South Korea are completely different opposition to Sweden. How do you approach playing against them?
Brandt: We shouldn't change our style of play very much. We need to continue as we have been, and how we played for long periods against Sweden. We need to use lots of short passes, play quickly and put pressure on high up the field. We want to try to trap them in – and it would also be handy if we scored the first goal.
Question: You know Heung-Min Son from your time together at Bayer Leverkusen. What makes him such a good player?
Brandt: He was a fantastic player [at Leverkusen], and has been at least as good for his new club, Tottenham. He's capable of playing off both feet, and is quick and dangerous in front of goal. Although he's nominally a wide player, he scored and created a lot of goals in Leverkusen. He's a fantastic character off the field, too: I was very good friends with him. When a player goes elsewhere, you don't have quite as much contact – that's normal – but Heung-Min is someone who I really rate as both a player and a person. I played against him a couple of summers ago at the Olympics and I'll be pleased to see him again.
Question: What's the spirit like in the group? You've been living together for a month or so now since the training camp.
Brandt: The atmosphere's been quite pleasant. Morale has definitely grown since the Sweden game. Everyone in the team has known each other for several years now, and it's obvious that there's a really impressive mentality. We had a few difficulties imposing our style in the first two games, but as a group we know that we're always capable of extracting ourselves from tricky situations and are tough to beat. The atmosphere, the mentality, being together: everything is in good shape.
Question: Who do you spend most of your time with?
Brandt: With plenty of players actually. I spend a lot of time with Timo [Werner], Platte [Marvin Plattenhardt] and Gore [Leon Goretzka]. We do a lot together off the field. We have a team living room where we have breakfast together and all watch the other World Cup matches.