National team: Many winners, but also three and a half losers

Sports stars in designer hoodies, bodyguards with broad shoulders and video analysts in front of their laptops – they all said goodbye to each other with hugs around midnight on Tuesday. In the catacombs in front of the team cabin in the stadium in Frankfurt/Main, the members of the German national football team had one thing in common: a satisfied smile.

After nine days together and two wins from two games against major football nations, the selected players traveled back to their clubs. 2-0 against France, 2-1 against the Netherlands – the very important final tests before the start of preparations for the European Championship were successful. More successful than many expected. This international trip was an important signal, three months before the opening game of the tournament in Germany against Scotland in Munich (June 14th). And produced winners and losers.

The winners

Julian Nagelsmann: The national coach’s plans for this international trip worked out completely – in every respect. His courageous squad nomination paid off: After years of sadness with three weak tournaments in a row, Nagelsmann has awakened anticipation for the European Championships with a radically renewed squad and two victories. “The spirit felt completely different than it did in November,” the coach said. On this trip, his team lived the motto “We kick”, which he had given out especially for the France game.

The 36-year-old chose the right formation and tactics, he appeared confident in public and found the right tone, warning against too much euphoria without coming across as a warning. The European Championship team is (finally) taking on strong shape under him; Nagelsmann used the same starting eleven in both games. He clearly assigned the roles. On his third international trip, his team played with structure and ideas after previously disappointing performances and radiated security and enthusiasm for long stretches. Nagelsmann has corrected some things compared to previous months and drawn the right conclusions.

“You have the feeling that there is suddenly a team on the pitch”

The German national soccer team under coach Nagelsmann is still on the road to success. In Frankfurt they defeated the Netherlands 2:1 (1:1). Before the European Championship opener against Scotland, there are further test matches against Ukraine and Greece. An assessment by Walter M. Straten from the sports editorial team.

“Now Julian Nagelsmann has re-nominated a bit, reshuffled the cards – I think that has been well received,” says record national player Lothar Matthäus on RTL. “It’s a liberation for everyone involved and now they know what they can do. I think something really big can happen.”

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Nagelsmann has consolidated his position and is now rightly receiving a lot of praise. It is even possible to extend his term of office beyond the period of the European Championship; the German Football Association (DFB) probably wants to extend his term before the tournament begins. “It all fits together,” said Matthäus about the current form of the national team. Germany has a team that not only can become European champions, but that “must become European champions!”

Toni Kroos: The returnee was immediately a success factor. Three years after retiring from the national team, the Real Madrid star shone in the win against France and also had strong scenes against Netherlands. They are also enthusiastic in Spain: “Kroos brings Germany into the game,” writes “AS”. And in “Mundo Deportivo” it says: “Kroos’ Germany is still on the road to recovery. Germany (…) seems to have overcome the November crisis with two disappointing defeats, at least for the time being.”

The 2014 world champion sometimes acts on the field like a quarterback in American football; against the Dutch, the 34-year-old took over the captain’s armband after Ilkay Gündogan was substituted. And complements himself with Robert Andrich, who was particularly convincing against France and has also been a winner in recent days – the ideal “six-man duo” has probably been found.

Maximilian Mittelstädt: This personality is a crazy football story. Last summer, the 27-year-old full-back was relegated from the Bundesliga with Hertha BSC, and now he is shining at VfB Stuttgart and started in his first international matches. In the 2-1 draw against the Netherlands he also scored the 1-1. “Outstanding,” said Nagelsmann. “If he continues like this, he will be a player for the European Championships.” Also for the starting eleven.

The defense: The central defense for the European Championship has apparently been found in Jonathan Tah and Antonio Rüdiger. She and her colleagues – Mittelstädt and Joshua Kimmich in the wing positions in both games – only conceded one goal and mostly radiated security, only before the 0-1 defeat against the Netherlands was Tah unlucky. Defensive stability was a problem recently, but not anymore. Tah’s path was “outstanding” after a difficult phase at his club Bayer Leverkusen, said Rüdiger. “There is currently no one better in the Bundesliga. He’s doing very well and deserves to play.”

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Jamal Musiala: FC Bayern’s young star played in the two games with the legendary number ten for the first time and lived up to the high expectations – even though he repeatedly slipped on the slippery grass against the Netherlands. He prepared a goal against France and was repeatedly dangerous in the second game. On offense, the 21-year-old is the key, the difference player. And harmonizes with Florian Wirtz, who is one year younger.

Musiala feels that his role is changing due to his good development at FC Bayern and in the national team. “I’m no longer the young player, I’m no longer Bambi. I have more responsibility in both teams.

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“I have given up the status of the young super talent that you have to watch out for,” he told “Sport Bild”. And added: “Nevertheless, I want to play with ease, have fun, radiate joy on the field like I did in my youth.” He has been playing very well for Bayern for months. “I feel like I’m playing my best football right now. “Also with a view to the entire season,” said Musiala. “I realize that I have taken a step forward. I score the goals and get the assists you need to get noticed.”

The losers

The BVB block: Niclas Füllkrug was the only BVB professional whom Nagelsmann nominated for this trip. The striker scored 2-1 against the Netherlands. Bitter for Dortmund: The non-nominated Mats Hummels, Marco Reus, Niklas Süle, Nico Schlotterbeck, Emre Can, Julian Brandt, Karim Adeyemi, Youssoufa Moukoko and Felix Nmecha are currently not needed. And it will be very difficult to earn a place in the European Championship squad in the coming weeks. There is a risk of hardship.

Everyone who is currently part of Nagelsmann’s squad can hope more than ever to take part in the tournament in Germany. “There is no question: If everyone stays healthy and continues to perform, we will definitely not swap ten players in the summer,” emphasized the national coach late on Tuesday evening. “Actually not five, maybe one or two – plus injured people.”

He doesn’t want to do without the suspended Leroy Sané, Sané’s club colleague Serge Gnabry, who was recently injured for a long time, is still hoping for a place in the European Championship. There are many indications that the Dortmund team – apart from Füllkrug – will have some time off in the summer. A bitter result for the demanding club, whose German national players have often not been consistently convincing in the Bundesliga this season.

Niklas Süle (l.) and Nico Schlotterbeck currently have little chance of making it to the European Championships

Source: dpa/Carmen Jaspersen

Leon Goretzka: The midfielder could be a tough case at FC Bayern. Nagelsmann did without Goretzka on this trip, although Goretzka has been playing better at the club recently. The competition is strong in Toni Kroos, Robert Andrich, Pascal Groß, who came on as a substitute against the Netherlands, and the players in the positions before them. Goretzka continues to be valuable with his physicality, experience, mentality and style of play. But the 29-year-old has to fight more than ever for his place in the national team.

Marc-André ter Stegen: The goalkeeper saved well in both games. But national coach Nagelsmann had already appointed Manuel Neuer, who left before the two games due to a torn muscle fiber, as the European Championship goalkeeper. And on this trip he made it clear that his decision was made. That’s why the long-injured Neuer, who turned 38 on Wednesday, is a winner of this international trip despite his postponed return to the national team. And the 31-year-old ter Stegen is a loser in this respect.

Ilkay Gundogan: The FC Barcelona midfielder is only a loser on this trip, half a loser, so to speak. Before the games, there was a lot of talk about Kroos’s situation about his situation. The 33-year-old proved in the two games that he can sort out the game as a “middleman” between the offensive young stars Musiala and Wirtz with his calm and experience. But they were not outstanding performances.

Before his substitution against the Netherlands, Gündogan handed over the captain’s armband to Kroos. The rather quiet conductor could fall somewhat behind in the team’s hierarchy. Gündogan showed his value for the selection against the Netherlands – in his 75th international match – significantly more than three days earlier against France.

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Disappointing anniversary

The national coach liked the increase in performance and Gündogan’s reaction between games. “He was very self-critical, saying, ‘I lost too many balls’. It’s all good, it was also tight in the central position. But the way we handled the situation was great,” said Nagelsmann on Tuesday evening. “Today he was more stable.”

The substitution is not a signal of demotion, but rather a protective measure on the recommendation of the team doctor. “At Barcelona he plays 90 minutes every game because they have a lot of injuries. “He wasn’t as fresh as heck, he can feel that too,” said the national coach. And with a view to the European Championships, he emphasized: “We want him to be in top shape.”

Many models are then conceivable in the “tenth” position. Sané is scheduled to be there after Nagelsmann’s ban ends, Thomas Müller is an option as an experienced back-up. Against the Netherlands, Stuttgart’s Chris Führich, as Gündogan’s direct replacement, showed that he can make a direct move to the goal.


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