Germany have hit out at “under the belt” criticism of Mesut Ozil as the under-fire holders attempt to get their World Cup campaign back on track against Sweden.
Joachim Loew’s team have faced a fierce backlash after their poor first-half display in the 1-0 defeat to Mexico on Sunday.
Attacking midfielder Ozil was singled out in some quarters, with ex-Germany captain Lothar Matthaeus accusing him of “no heart, no joy, no passion” in a woeful display.
“We have to live with the criticism after the Mexico defeat, the main body of which is justified,” said team director Oliver Bierhoff at a press conference in Sochi yesterday.
“I just find it a pity that a few comments have gone under the belt, not just for Mesut Ozil, but in general.
“Hard criticism is OK, but malicious comments against deserving world champions are not.”
Loew is under intense pressure to drop Ozil for the high-pressure second Group F game against Sweden on Saturday, where a second defeat would effectively send the Germans home.
Ozil arrived in Russia following an unimpressive season with Arsenal and Matthaeus believes he no longer deserves his place in the Germany team.