Germany defender Shkodran Mustafi presents a formidable physical presence, so the UEFA European Under-17 Championship hosts' semi-final opponents Italy may feel a little uneasy when he unambiguously declares: "I think we will win."
The sides meet on Friday afternoon in Dessau-Rosslau, with Germany going into the game off the back of three Group B wins and only one goal conceded in nine 2009 fixtures. But although Mustafi admits to being "a little bit nervous", from his first-hand knowledge of Italy he is in no doubt his side can continue their good run.
"I have played Italy twice," Mustafi told uefa.com. "One was my first game for the national team, we won 1-0. The next was a little bit unlucky, it was 0-0, but I think we were better and that is the reason I think we will win. They play a lot of long and high balls, they are well organised and disciplined, but they have some weaknesses which we think we can exploit."
Mustafi is partnered in the centre of Germany's defence by Hamburger SV colleague Robert Labus and emphasised the importance of their intuition. "We have security because we have known each other for two years," said Mustafi. "We know each other very well on and off the pitch."
Both have contributed at the other end for Germany too with headed goals, and Mustafi was delighted when he claimed the third in the opening 3-1 defeat of Turkey. "It was a good feeling to score a goal," he said. "It was important to win the first match and it was nice for me to contribute not only in defence, but with a goal."
When the tournament finishes, Mustafi will travel to England to undergo a medical at Everton FC. "It was my dream to play for an English Premier League club, a dream come true," he said. "I have been there and tested out everything. I wanted to be sure everything was perfect and I felt very comfortable there, and that is why I joined. They give young players the chance to play in the first team and get experience, like Wayne Rooney, and that is the reason I went there."
He has gained some tips on life in Merseyside from squad-mate Christopher Buchtmann of Liverpool FC and the club rivalry will not get in the way of their friendship. "I have spoken to him but not too much as I want to find out things for myself," Mustafi revealed. "Myself and Christopher will be friends off the pitch but if we meet on the pitch we will not be!"
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