Berlin, Germany: Jerome Boateng says Mesut Ozil should not be singled out as the scapegoat for Germany's World Cup debacle after the Arsenal midfielder faced sharp criticism following their early exit.
"That's not on, Mesut is human too and you can't pin the criticism on one person - the whole team is responsible," Boateng told German daily Welt on Sunday.
Ozil was slammed by German fans on social media for his woeful displays in the shock group stage defeats to Mexico and South Korea having been dropped for the last-gasp win over Sweden.
Boateng says the entire German squad must shoulder the blame for the disastrous performances in Russia, not just Ozil or head coach Joachim Loew, who has said he is considering his future.
"It was and is, down to us players. We were on the pitch and the coach gave us clear words and instructions which we did not follow," said Boateng.
For the first time since 1938, Germany failed to get past the first round at a World Cup, which Boateng admits was a "shock, for all of us.
"There was a lot missing: will, passion, conviction - we acted paralysed. We just had too many failings," he added.
Amid the fall out of the holders' early exit, Ozil was singled out by pundits with former captain Lothar Matthaeus accusing him of no longer looking comfortable in the Germany shirt.
Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan fell offside with German fans after posing for pictures with Turkey president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the eve of the World Cup, which put their loyalty to Germany in question.
Boateng admits the controversy was an "unhappy" distraction which created a "very difficult situation" for both players.
Ozil refused to comment on the Erdogan issue or face the German media during the World Cup.
However, on Saturday he posted how the early exit "hurts so much. We just weren't good enough. I'll need some time to get over it," on Instagram, but made no mention of his Germany future.
Boateng has ruled out retiring from international duty amid calls in the German media for a clean-out of all underperforming 2014 World Cup winners.
"As long as nobody comes up to me and tells me that everything is going to be completely new and I am not part of the plan, then I would like to continue," said the burly Bayern Munich defender.
"I am a leader and, as such, willing to get involved.
"I will try to pass on my experience to the young players and I really want to help us play well again."