So much about the German national team's radically different performances in this summer's Euros comes down to the different defensive personnel the Nationelf faced in the two group fixtures.
France's Raphaël Varane and Presnel Kimpembe kept the danger area on lockdown. Portugal's Nelson Semedo, clearly overly concerned about assisting his center backs, allowed Robin Gosens to operate with complete freedom on the left.
Joachim Löw's team faces a back-three anchored by a familiar face next. Leipzig's Willi Orban, a Kaiserslautern native, is tasked with stopping the country he more closely identifies with.
The leader of a three-man-chain that also features Attila Szalai and Endre Botka, will have to be as strong as an ox to stop the German attack.
In an interview with Germany's Sport Bild, the 28-year-old spoke on facing his home country in a crucial showdown on the grand international stage.
|Willi Orban.||Photo :RB Leipzig|
Willi Orban had already been capped twice for the German U18s and twice for the U21s when he decided to accept a 2018 call-up for his father's country. At the time, there was some discussion of him joining the German national team. Ralf Rangnick, then at RB Leipzig, publicly endorsed him for die Nationalmannschaft several times.
"I could have gone with the DFB team," Orban mused in an interview appearing in the Sunday edition of Germany's Bild Zeitung, "When I was 25, I thought a lot about where my path would lead. The Hungarian association had been calling again and again. The coach at the time wanted to take me to the last Euros. I was hesitant. Then I talked it over with my family, especially my father in Hungary. Today I'm very happy with my decision."
Orban remains a true Pfälzer and speaks with a heavy Palatinate dialect. Asked about his Hungarian language skills, Orban conceded they weren't necessarily as functional as his German.
"As a child, I could speak the language quite well because I regularly visited my father on summer vacations," he told his interviewer, "That has become less the case. Today, I understand a lot, but I don't speak it very well. My teammates help we when I can't understand something. It's okay because me and the Bundesliga players speak in German and [Italian head-coach Marco Rossi] makes his speeches in English."
Alongside Orban, there are three other influential Bundesliga players standing in the way of the German national team and the knockouts. Orban finds himself stationed directly ahead of Leipzig teammate Peter Gulacsi in goal. Additionally, Rossi has contracted a 3-5-2 that features Adam Szalai of FSV Mainz 05 and Roland Sallai as the two strikers.
Asked by the German magazine if Orban would be offering his head-coach any advice ahead of Wednesday's do-or-die final group-stage fixture, Orban spoke of sharing his Bundesliga experience with Rossi.
"I will certainly tell him what the German players are like personally and what makes them tick on the pitch," he answered, "that's helpful from a psychological point of view."
Psychology will certainly play a role for Orban on the pitch too. He's had an unbecoming tournament thus far. After holding his own against Portugal in the opening match, he wilted late and found himself culpable on all three of the late goals. Against France he also didn't truly look himself.
One reason for the subpar performances may relate to the fact that, in front of the full-capacity crowd at Budapest's Puskas Arena, Orban wasn't truly playing on home turf. The centre-back heads home for a monster match on Wednesday.
Asked if he thought he could have ultimately asserted himself on the German national team, Orban laughed before responding
"I assert myself everywhere," he said with a chuckle, "But, in all seriousness, I would answer with a 'yes'."
|1||Manuel Neuer (C)|
|4||Matthias Ginter ↩82|
|21||İlkay Gündoğan ↩58|
|20||Robin Gosens ↩82|
|7||Kai Havertz ⚽ ↩67|
|10||Serge Gnabry ↩67|
|9||Kevin Volland ↪82|
|11||Timo Werner ↪67|
|25||Thomas Müller ↪67|
|14||Jamal Musiala ↪82|
|18||Leon Goretzka ↪58 ⚽|
|5||Attila Fiola ↩88|
|15||László Kleinheisler ↩88|
|13||András Schafer ⚽|
|20||Roland Sallai ↩75|
|9||Ádám Szalai (C) ⚽ ↩82|
|23||Nemanja Nikolić ↪88|
|24||Szabolcs Schön ↪75|
|14||Gergő Lovrencsics ↪88|
|19||Kevin Varga ↪82|