Nico Schlotterbeck shortly before his debut in the starting eleven

Nico Schlotterbeck shortly before his debut in the starting eleven

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EM 2024 Second chance for the light-footed player

Great hopes rest on central defender Nico Schlotterbeck

© Memmler / Eibner-Pressefoto / Imago Images

One central defender is suspended, another is injured. National coach Nagelsmann has to rebuild the defense and is relying on Nico Schlotterbeck – who was already considered a failure in the DFB selection.

Nico Schlotterbeck had only played half an hour against Switzerland, but he strode through the mixed zone of the Frankfurt stadium like a statesman. “I’ll only speak after the final,” he called out to the journalists and then walked with measured steps towards the dressing room.

An astonishing sentence for a substitute player in the German national team. What was not contained in these few words? Confidence that the Germans would make it to the European Championship final in Berlin. The 1:1 against Switzerland on Sunday evening had brought victory in Group A. It was a hard-fought draw, but for Schlotterbeck it was reason enough to think big. About the title.

“I’ll only speak after the final” – there was a remarkable gravitas hidden in that. A Schlotterbeck only speaks when history is being made – that’s how the sentence could be interpreted. A preliminary round match is a few numbers too small, others should speak there. Please understand.

Nico Schlotterbeck as substitute for suspended Tah

Pride and self-confidence have never been a problem for Nico Schlotterbeck. He will need a lot of it, because on Saturday Schlotterbeck, 24, will most likely be promoted to national coach Julian Nagelsmann’s starting eleven. Schlotterbeck is set to replace Jonathan Tah in defence, who is suspended after receiving two yellow cards. In addition, Antonio Rüdiger, the second centre-back, is suffering from a thigh strain (injured while celebrating Niclas Füllkrug’s equaliser against Switzerland).

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Schlotterbeck will get one of the two places that may become free in the starting line-up. The national coach has repeatedly stressed in recent weeks how important a player’s momentum is to him. That means form on the day, successes, and, in the best case, even title wins.

Key player at Borussia Dortmund

Schlotterbeck may not have lifted any trophies or trophies last season, but he does have some impressive statistics to offer. He was one of Borussia Dortmund’s key players in the second half of the season. Together with Mats Hummels, he formed one of the best central defender duos in Europe. Dortmund reached the final of the Champions League, dominated the match against Real Madrid for an hour and only had to admit defeat late on, 2-0.

Schlotterbeck’s best performance, however, was not the final at Wembley, but the semi-final against Paris Saint-Germain. In both games, Dortmund did not concede a goal, even though Paris had arguably the world’s best striker in Kylian Mbappé. A masterpiece from the defensive leaders Hummels and Schlotterbeck.

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This did not go unnoticed by national coach Julian Nagelsmann. In May, Nagelsmann named Schlotterbeck in the squad for the European Championships; however, he left out Hummels, who was strategically more gifted but athletically weaker.

For Schlotterbeck, participating in the European Championships means a second chance in the national team. He was only retired last summer. His last game was also Hansi Flick’s last as national coach. After the 1:4 defeat against Japan in Wolfsburg, Flick was sacked. Schlotterbeck was disappointed again and was substituted after an hour.

Schlotterbeck and the national team – it has not been a happy relationship so far. In March 2022, he made his debut in a friendly against Israel and immediately caused a penalty. In November, in the first World Cup group match against Japan, he carelessly let striker Takuna Asano escape in the 83rd minute, who then scored the winning goal to make it 2-1. This defeat meant that the Germans were eliminated from the World Cup after the preliminary round.

Chance to prove themselves in the European Championship round of 16

Now Schlotterbeck is getting a chance to prove himself in the European Championship round of 16. The match will take place in Dortmund, a home game for Schlotterbeck, who moved from SC Freiburg to BVB two years ago for 20 million euros. Schlotterbeck may defend alongside Waldemar Anton, 27, on Saturday if Antonio Rüdiger is unavailable. This would be the first time for the Schlotterbeck/Anton duo, but it can already be said that this duo will have a future in German football: two days ago it was announced that Anton is leaving VfB Stuttgart and moving to Borussia Dortmund.

There he is supposed to replace Mats Hummels.

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