By Karolos Grohmann
VATUTINKI, Russia, June 14 : Four years ago, the Germany team resided in a purpose-built five-star hotel on a tiny, picturesque island off the Brazilian mainland, with the spectacular lush jungle and sea views inspiring them to the World Cup title.
This time round, the defending champions have replaced their tropical paradise with a red-brick hotel block in the village of Vatutinki, along a drab strip of motorway that leads out of Moscow, surrounded by dozens of huge tower blocks.
Coach Joachim Loew said on Tuesday that the Vatutinki hotel complex at the edge of the village possessed “the charm of a better sports school”, rather than that of a top hotel for the tournament favourites.
Pictures of Russian President Vladimir Putin and a predecessor Boris Yeltsin adorn the walls of the large structure, whose architecture somehow marries Russia’s Soviet past with a fairytale castle.
Yet for Loew and his players, downscaling in terms of luxury for the World Cup is no problem and will not be used as an excuse.
“Sports school, yes ok but we are here to do sport,” midfielder Toni Kroos told reporters on Thursday.
“I think it’s ok. We can spend our time here with two, three activities that we can do. It is absolutely ok and the desire for vacation afterwards becomes even stronger,” he said, prompting laughter from team mate Jerome Boateng.
Assistant coach Thomas Schneider had no water in his room on the team’s arrival this week, said Kroos, adding that some things still needed to be ironed out.
“It is normal when you arrive that everything is new. Some things won’t work that well. Thomas Schneider had no water but I had,” he said.
“But the basic structure is good. There is nothing to complain about and we will not use it as an excuse.” For Boateng the trips away from the hotel for group matches will be a welcome break.
“We are here to play football and hopefully for a longer period of time,” the central defender told reporters. “We also have some trips so that’s good.” Germany kick off their title defence on Sunday with their Group F opener against Mexico. They also play Sweden and South Korea.