Germany midfielder Sami Khedira believes his congenial partnership with Bastian Schweinsteiger is in ruder health than ever.
It is easy forget that this is a combination which perhaps would never have been formed had Michael Ballack not been ruled out of the 2010 FIFA World Cup through injury. Coach Joachim Löw was forced into a rethink in the absence of the venerable Ballack and opted to pair Schweinsteiger and Khedira.
It was a hit from the off, helping Germany to the semi-finals in South Africa, and has flourished ever since. "In 2010, we played only one game together before the World Cup," said Khedira. "Since then, two years have gone by and we have played many matches together."
Khedira began the relationship as the undoubted junior partner but, having moved to Real Madrid CF two summers ago, has matured into an integral figure under the stewardship of José Mourinho. For the national team, he and Schweinsteiger complement each other perfectly.
"We know our respective virtues and to enable the other to capitalise on theirs you yourself take a step back," added Khedira, 25. "I believe our balance between defending and attacking has become even better and that has probably made us stronger as well."
It is also worth remembering that Khedira's Madrid club-mate Mesut Özil is the other member of Germany's midfield triumvirate. "Mesut has taken another step in the past one or two years," said Khedira. "We players value him, he works a lot for the team. Now he knows how to create space by running."
Löw expressed his belief that there would be "an explosion in Özil's form in the knockout stages" and Khedira concurs: "His genius moments will come, simply because he has the quality for that to happen." Friday's quarter-final against Greece might be a good time for Özil to turn it on.
"Greece have a very, very strong side which we must not underestimate," said Khedira. "Patience will be needed, but it is very, very important to have lots of movement within our game. If we stay static, it will be very, very difficult. It will be difficult to break through, but I think we have some very good tools to do so."
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