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Musiala playing 'with freedom' in Germany's World Cup pursuit

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Al Shamal, Qatar, Nov 21, 2022 (AFP) - When Mario Goetze scored in extra time against Argentina to win the 2014 World Cup for Germany, an 11-year-old Jamal Musiala watched from his couch alongside his parents in London.

Eight years later and still three months shy of his 20th birthday, the former Chelsea youth star has established himself as an essential part of Hansi Flick's XI in Qatar.

The Bayern Munich forward, nicknamed "Bambi" for his youthful appearance, opened Monday's Germany press conference by reiterating the need to keep his cool.

Germany begin their latest World Cup title charge on Wednesday against Japan in the Doha heat.

"I feel it's important to bring a bit of looseness, not to put too much pressure on yourself and to have a bit of fun, and then it'll go well," said Musiala, whose calm on the ball is crucial in Germany's high-octane attack.

"Jamal is a laid-back guy," teammate Niklas Suele, 27, said while sitting alongside the teenager, who has been showered with praise after a stunning domestic season in which he has scored nine goals and had six assists in 15 league games with Bayern.

German legend Lothar Matthaeus says that Musiala is so good that he compares him with Lionel Messi.

"Being compared to Messi, it's a little difficult," Musiala said on Monday at Germany's isolated training camp in Al-Shamal, northern Qatar.

"I am focused on myself and what I can do better as Jamal."

Musiala's form has been so strong that Bayern have hardly noticed the absence of talisman Thomas Mueller, who has missed much of the season so far with injury.

'Play with freedom'

Born in Stuttgart, Musiala moved to England at the age of seven. He returned to Germany in 2019 after spending eight years in the Chelsea youth set-up.

Musiala represented England throughout his teenage years but in February 2021 opted to swap allegiance to Germany, despite Gareth Southgate's attempts to keep him.

Former Bayern and England midfielder Owen Hargreaves has called Musiala "one of a kind" and says he "had something that England doesn't have".

Musiala remains good friends with several current English stars, including 19-year-old Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham.

Musiala said his decade in England armed him with skills that he may not have picked up in Germany.

"In the England youth set-up you learn different things than you do in Germany. I have taken a real lot from (that time), like quality playing as an individual and in one-on-one situations," he said.

"A saying they often repeated was 'play with freedom', which I have tried to implement throughout my career (and which) will always be a part of me."

Formerly Musiala's teammate at Bayern before an off-season move to Dortmund, Suele recalled the moment he recognised the teenager's "incredible" talent.

"We played against the under-19s and you could see what incredible skills and abilities he had," said Suele, adding that "after this game, he was moved to the professional side".

While admitting that as a teenager he "supported England" and was still "happy when they win games", Musiala believes Germany can turn it on when it matters.

"We came into the tournament with the mindset that we can win," he said.

"We are well prepared and pumped up to know that the tournament is starting."

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