In the next in our series of exclusive player interviews for the FIFA World Cup 2022, Kai Havertz recalls some formative moments when the tournament was played in his homeland, watching one of the biggest and most famous wins for his nation, and he makes his pick from all the World Cup goals and balls.
The 23-year-old is competing in his first World Cup with four-time winners Germany, and his memory stretches back to the most recent of those triumphs, and a couple of tournaments earlier too…
First World Cup you can remember watching?
The first one was 2006, in Germany, when I was seven years old. Because it was in Germany I remember it very, very well.
Were there games near where you were living?
There were but I didn't go to one game. I think I just went before the World Cup to a friendly game of Germany.
Of course this World Cup was a big event in Germany and the fans were outside of the houses. Everyone was supporting the team.
I was old enough to remember the games. Germany lost in the semi-finals so they had a very good tournament.
Were you one of those kids who would watch the games and then go out and play football straightaway and pretend to be the players?
Of course! As a kid I used to always play football. Every day, with my brother in the garden or with a team. Of course when you went to the garden you want to imitate your idols so I did that as well.
The most recent World Cup Germany won, in Brazil in 2014, you must have been at a great age to enjoy it…
Yeah, for sure. For our country it was very, very good and I was 15 so I was a big fan. And I wanted to become a professional footballer so I watched every game.
What was it like being in Germany when you beat Brazil 7-1 in the semi-final?
For us it was good of course but in Germany we don't want to humiliate. Of course everyone is glad but no one makes jokes about this or something like that. Football is sometimes like this so we take the result but we didn't celebrate in a very big way really. You know that sometimes in a tournament things like this happen, and when you score early goals that gives you confidence. It was in Brazil so the Brazil team were under pressure and for us it was very good.
Presumably the final that year when Germany beat Argentina is your favourite World Cup final?
100 per cent for me it is the best one.
What's the favourite goal you’ve seen in a World Cup?
The Zidane penalty in the final in 2006. This was the first World Cup I remember and he chipped it in the middle, so it was a big goal and I quite liked it. Of course I tried to copy it. Maybe in a World Cup final I can do it as well!
Who are the best players you have seen in a World Cup?
Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, I like Zidane, obviously Messi - big players.
For Germany in 2010 and 2014 it was Thomas Muller. He was very good and I think he won the Golden Boot as well. Then you have players like Philipp Lahm, Manuel Neuer, obviously also very good players.
What's been your favourite World Cup ball?
For me the one in 2014. I had it at home and I liked it.
Did you fill World Cup sticker books?
My brother always did those with me together. I don't think we finished one but we tried to do it.
You played in junior Euros for Germany but did you ever play in a junior World Cup?
No. I think the U19s was always a World Cup but at the time I was already playing for the professionals so I didn't play.
Which stadium would you most like to play a World Cup final in?
I would say the Bernabeu maybe, or Camp Nou - the big ones.
In Germany, because of your World Cup history, there must always be a lot of excitement going into a new World Cup…
Of course. In every country everyone looks forward to seeing the World Cup.
Playing in my first World Cup is a big thing for me. It is different playing in the middle of the season but we are all going to enjoy it.