German goalkeepers at EURO 2024: Ter Stegen’s patience in Neuer’s waiting room

German goalkeepers at EURO 2024: Ter Stegen’s patience in Neuer’s waiting room

Status: 09.06.2024 16:38

Manuel Neuer remains in goal for the German national football team, even though he has recently made several serious mistakes. His rival Marc-André ter Stegen remains on the defensive. He is waiting patiently to see if the throne will soon be vacant.

The question of how they experienced the 2006 World Cup was often asked to the German national players during the days in Herzogenaurach. However, this was not possible on the day of the opening game 18 years ago, because the now final squad of national coach Julian Nagelsmann was allowed to return home briefly after the 2-1 victory against Greece in Mönchengladbach. The base camp in the small Franconian town was therefore deserted on Sunday (June 9, 2024), and the entire entourage did not have to be fully assembled again until Monday morning.

Marc-André ter Stegen may be the youngest goalkeeper in the final German squad, but he is also already 32 years old. He will have seen live and in colour how two goalkeepers fought a bitter, verbal battle for a place in the German goal. This battle began in 2004, when the new team manager Jürgen Klinsmann violently shook Oliver Kahn’s throne and proclaimed an open duel with Jens Lehmann.

That same Lehmann was in goal on June 9, 2006, conceding two goals against Costa Rica, but this did not matter because Germany scored four.

Ter Stegen: “Not a pleasant situation”

About two months earlier, Klinsmann had chosen Lehmann, thereby dethroning Kahn. Rudi Völler, Klinsmann’s predecessor as team manager, once said that he had firmly assumed that Kahn would skip the big tournament. But the FC Bayern goalkeeper announced in a very statesmanlike manner that he would accept his role as number two. When Kahn went to Lehmann before the penalty shootout in the quarter-final against Argentina and wished him luck, the gesture was seen as a historic peace treaty.

If a major football tournament is ever held in Germany again and players are asked how they experienced the 2024 European Championship, they might remember a goalkeeper discussion. It is very different from the one in the run-up to the 2006 World Cup, because the duel is neither open nor are there any verbal duels, which could be perceived as disturbing in the idyllic Herzogenaurach.

“It’s not a pleasant situation. But the coach made the decision. I respect and accept it, even if I don’t agree,” said ter Stegen at the training camp.

Nagelsmann sticks to his goalkeeper decision

Nagelsmann’s decision was, is and will most likely be for the entire European Championship that Manuel Neuer is number one, even if he has made one blatant mistake after another in recent weeks. “He is somewhere between genius and madness,” said Sportschau expert Thomas Broich. Broich believes Nagelsmann’s decision to continue to favor Neuer was the right one.

This decision is an essential part of Marc-André ter Stegen’s life. He is about to take part in his second European Championship, and has already taken part in two World Cups. He has not played a single second yet.

The decision in favor of Neuer was a close call twice. But that had nothing to do with his performance, but rather with his state of health. Before the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Neuer gave the thumbs up in time after breaking his metatarsal for the third time, and four years later before the tournament in Qatar, he did the same after bruising his acromioclavicular joint. Manuel Neuer decides whether he plays. No national coach has dared to change this status, which has been achieved on the basis of decades of performance.

40 international matches, not a single tournament second

There was never a Lehmann to be found among the competitors either. On Tuesday (June 4, 2024) at the “Media Day” of the German Football Association (DFB), ter Stegen said: “I don’t think I can blame myself for much, especially in the last two years. I played a lot and showed my performance, which makes me all the more disappointed.”

That was comparatively bold for the FC Barcelona goalkeeper, who played 40 international matches, but never on the big stage, but rather in the waiting room.

Marc-André ter Stegen waits and waits and waits. He was also asked at the “Media Day” whether he had ever thought about withdrawing from the European Championships. The answer was: “I told the national coach that they could rely on me. Of course the situation is very disappointing, but at the end of the day I also have a responsibility to the group. I will help where I can.”

The throne may become vacant for the 2026 World Cup. Manuel Neuer will then be 40 years old.

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