Why 'Dead Frog' Mesut Ozil Is an Easy Target as Germany's World Cup Scapegoat

Dean Jones@DeanJonesBRFootball Insider at Bleacher ReportJune 22, 2018

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 17:  Mesut Oezil of Germany reacts during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group F match between Germany and Mexico at Luzhniki Stadium on June 17, 2018 in Moscow, Russia.  (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

You know Mesut Ozil's World Cup campaign has not started well when he is being compared to a dead frog after one match.

He is familiar with being singled out for criticism, of course. It's been happening at Arsenal for the past five years. More often than not, it's his body language damaging his reputation.

We all know of his sublime skill: the precise passing, fabulous crossing and beautiful finishing that has helped him become recognised as one of the most talented players on the planet.

But when the going gets tough, Ozil usually takes the hits.

That has been the case since Germany's shocking opening loss to Mexico. Some are calling the defeat a crisis, with the reigning world champions rocked to the core by Chucky Lozano's first-half winner in Moscow.

And in the fallout of that opening defeat, one man has felt criticism harder than anyone else.

"Ozil is an overrated footballer," said Mario Basler, a former German international, on the German TV show Hard But Fairper Chris Hatherall of the Daily Star. "His body language is that of a dead frog."

"If you look at the Mexico game and the way he has defended as a so-called leader, that was pathetic," Basler said. "It was like, 'There, please take the ball and shoot.' That's not defence."

Basler has been laying into Ozil since before the tournament even began.

"Ozil is overrated," he said, per German magazine Sport Bild (h/t 101 Great Goals), a week before a ball had been kicked in Russia. "Even if he plays another 100 internationals. To me, he's a follower. He has extraordinary abilities, of course. But in big games, he doesn't put them on the pitch."

Look back at the stats from Germany's loss to Mexico, and Ozil doesn't appear to have had the worst of games. He made four key passes, and of his 74 passes, he was accurate on 91.9 percent of them.

Play back the match, and his performance did not seem so terrible that he should be taking the flak for a team outing that was simply below par.

But even legendary figure Lothar Matthaus criticised Ozil by claiming he is "in the game without joy."

He went on to explain, per Alex Richard of The Mirror: "I often have the feeling that on the pitch, Ozil doesn't feel comfortable in the DFB jersey, is not free—almost as if he does not want to play.

"There is no heart, no joy, no passion. After the latest impression, it is not excluded for me that he withdraws from the national team after the World Cup."

So what is it about Ozil that really gets on the nerves of people who should be supporting him?

Jochen Stutzky, who works for Sport 1 television and covers the the German national team, has a theory.

"It's easy to pick him out because it's easy to criticise him," he said. "There's always one thing you can criticise, and that's his body language.

"It's so easy to criticise him. Part of the problem is that Ozil could be the world's best player. But he isn't always at that level."

Perhaps Ozil is his own worst enemy.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 17: Mesut Ozil of Germany reacts during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group F match between Germany and Mexico at Luzhniki Stadium on June 17, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Dr. Jack Brown is an American expert in body language and emotional intelligence. He studied images of the Germany star for Bleacher Report to observe the way Ozil carries himself on the field.

"I am also an ophthalmologist, and I notice he has a condition called congenital ptosis," he immediately said. "That is a general term for a droopiness of one's eyelids. 

"This gives him the psychological appearance of being a little bit lazy, tired or apathetic, so places him at a disadvantage. If someone has these type of eyelids, we see them to be more lazy than we otherwise would."

He continued: "I see he has shoulders slumped and his head tilted, and this shows a low-energy state.

"As a leader this projects a low-energy mindset to the other players on the team, and they will tend to adopt that. Even the most junior member of the team should have a more confident and emotionally strong body posture. He almost looks like a 10-year-old boy who got disappointing news about not getting sweets after dinner."

Then, looking at an image of Ozil hanging his head, he says: "It is a negative thing to do, although an easy thing to do in a losing position. It's important not to do this [to avoid] projecting a feeling to fans and teammates but also as a form of bio-feedback to oneself. I recommend strongly against it.

"The other thing a person should almost never do is touch your face. It shows anxiety—that's the No. 1 reason we touch our face. It makes yourself feel that way too; you will seem more low-energy and defeated. Some sports teams even fine players financially for using bad body language."

The way Ozil holds himself on the pitch clearly affects how he is perceived, no matter how much effort he is truly putting in. But another factor not helping him right now is his public profile.

A man of few words, he created headlines ahead of the World Cup. Ozil, along with international teammate Ilkay Gundogan, was pictured with controversial Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Relations have been strained between Turkey and Germany, and the photograph created a backlash, with the far-right group Alternative for Germany calling for both players to be left out of the World Cup squad.

Munich-based fan Tina believes his lack of a connection with supporters generally is a bigger issue for Ozil, though. She told B/R: "I think people in general are unhappy with Ozil's lack of openness. He seems distant, which is partly his fault, but people expect too much of him. The national team is huge, bigger than any club."

Germany's midfielder Mesut Ozil poses before the Russia 2018 World Cup Group F football match between Germany and Mexico at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on June 17, 2018. (Photo by Yuri CORTEZ / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS
YURI CORTEZ/Getty Images

Coach Joachim Low has defended Ozil ahead of their next encounter, and the player is expected to keep his place on the team for Germany's match with Sweden on Saturday. It is a must-win encounter for German fans, and focus will undoubtedly centre on the No. 10.

Sport 1 TV's Stutzky added: "There are so many people who don't like him in Germany, who don't like the situation because he never wants to give an interview to the media. So he's seen very negatively and they don't see his qualities.

"I would say only success can make this better for him. Shoot a goal, make an assist, win trophies. In my opinion, there's nothing else he can do.

"If you look at his numbers, they are pretty good—I think 90 games played for Germany, and when you combine goals and assists, there are more than 60. But in the big matches? He's not the Mesut Ozil we want."

Only one man can change this story, and winning over the critics is going to take some huge performances. For Ozil, that must begin now.


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