A few eyebrows were raised when Shkodran Mustafi took to the field in Germany’s 2014 World Cup opener against Portugal.
The defender had only made his international debut against Poland three weeks before the tournament, but was thrust into action as a 73rd-minute substitute for Mats Hummels in Salvador.
“I got a call just a few months before the World Cup to go and play a friendly game against Chile for Germany,” Mustafi told Arsenal Player. “It was the first time I was in the squad, so I was really, really excited.
My goal at the beginning of the season was to get my place as a centre half and play most of the games for Sampdoria, but then I got called up to the national team
“Still, friends and family were saying, ‘I’m smelling an opportunity for you to go to the World Cup’. I was like, ‘What are you saying? It’s in three months and it’s the first time I’ve been with the national team’. I didn’t even play, I was on the bench. I did the training session but I never played.
“Suddenly I was in the 30-man squad just before we went to the World Cup. After that, I never got called by the under-23s. My goal at the beginning of the season was to get my place as a centre half and play most of the games for Sampdoria, but then I got called up to the national team and went to the last 30 to make the squad for Brazil.
“I said to myself, ‘It’s not time to be disappointed, I have to think positively and think that I achieved more than I wanted’. Unfortunately Marco Reus got injured in the last game just before they went to Brazil. I got a call when I was in the car. I missed the first one and then the assistant coach called me, so I made sure I didn’t miss that one.
“He said, ‘You have to be quick because we’re waiting for you in Frankfurt at the airport. Marco Reus is injured and the coach wants you to meet the squad to come with us to Brazil’. I didn’t ask many more questions, I just went home, packed my bags and then went straight to the airport. It was so unbelievable for me because the first game of the World Cup was my first proper game for Germany.
“It was against Portugal at the World Cup so I was thinking, ‘Woah, what’s going on?’. It was really, really strange and I was really, really excited. In the end, we won the World Cup so it was a brilliant story.”
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