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Who brings fast-paced football to the pitch?

AFrom a distance it looked like a strange procession: men in blue overalls carrying flags with messages were approaching an office building. The men were undoubtedly the German national soccer team. But a protest march in the Franconian idyll?

No, in Herzogenaurach on Tuesday there were no demonstrations for inflation compensation or against the second training session without full time off compensation – the selection of the German Football Association (DFB) was preparing to take part in a company run at the headquarters of their outfitter: for a good cause, to Raising awareness of ocean pollution, and good pictures too. In the course of the 2.3-kilometer lap, a group around Thomas Müller and Leon Goretzka turn off early to the training ground, a misunderstanding, they were sent back to the field of runners.

In Herzogenaurach, the team of national coaches Hansi Flick Quarters for the next ten days, as a basis for a small trip to Europe with four games in the Nations League – on Saturday against Italy in Bologna (each at 8.45 p.m. in the FAZ live ticker for the national team and on RTL), then against England in Munich (June 7), against Hungary in Budapest (June 11) and again against Italy in Mönchengladbach (June 14) – but also to lay the foundation for a successful World Cup in November and December.


Leon Goretzka at the press conference on Tuesday: “Full of anticipation” for the Nations League games
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Image: dpa


There has always been talk of the world championship title, but when Goretzka took his place on the press podium after the morning session on Tuesday, it sounded a bit different, even if the goal and aspiration are perhaps the same. “Based on the past few years, you can’t say that we’re among the best in the world,” he said. “But we want to go back there. And I think we’re on the right track.”

How far, that should and will be better seen after the games against Italy and England, Goretzka spoke of a “real indicator, and even if he called such a long and demanding international match period at the end of a long season “special”: In view of these opponents he was “full of anticipation”.

Goretzka, on the other hand, did not seem to want to look back so much. The Munich midfielder did not allow himself to be compared to a year ago, when the DFB selection for the European Championship also resided in Herzogenaurach. But if you remember the last tournament of the era Joachim Löw remembered, one essential difference is obvious: while the team had lost a bit of itself in the course of Löw’s late renovation work – keyword back three – there is now a clear (self-)image that the football nation already had from flicks previous station in Munich. “It’s absolute power and speed football, which we and the spectators enjoy a lot,” said Goretzka. So far, so proven.

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With the World Cup approaching, there is more tension in the question of who should actually bring this football onto the pitch when things get serious. There is a lot of talk about competition these days, and in Goretzka’s district, the power and command center of the game, where the overalls sometimes have to be unpacked, the national coach is faced with one of the most important decisions.

In addition to the proven Munich team with Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich, which, however, can look back on an unsatisfactory second half of the season, Ilkay Gündogan has also applied emphatically for a place, and then there is Jamal Musiala, who was the discovery of the international spring in the sixth position. So far, Flick only wanted to commit himself to the fact that he would not push Kimmich to an outside position in view of the crowd in the middle – a decision in Kimmich’s interest, but whether it is also in the interest of the big picture remains to be seen.

Otherwise, the national coach recently pushed the attitude that nobody should be (too) sure of his cause. “As a coach, I wouldn’t put handcuffs on myself either,” said Goretzka. In any case, after the “difficult situation” of last season with a knee injury that has been a mystery for a long time, he is now ready “without after-effects”. And from the morning session, the 27-year-old professional reported how things went “really round” between him and Kimmich in a duel. Goretzka liked it: “These are the things that weld us together even more,” he said. A resilient alliance of these two in particular would certainly be right for the national coach – regardless of the competition.

In another matter, on the other hand, Goretzka tried to counteract the centrifugal forces on Tuesday: When he was asked about his club colleague Robert Lewandowski’s intentions to change and the obvious faults with FC Bayern. “I would be happy if both sides took out a bit of emotionality and tried to find a good solution for everyone involved,” said Goretzka, referring to the “incredible success story”. However, despite all efforts to be conciliatory, he has already spoken about this in the past.

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