Erdogan, Gaza, red flags: Politics is ignored before the heartbeat test against Turkey. National coach Nagelsmann suddenly has to improvise at his home premiere for the European Championship.
Julian Nagelsmann blinked against the bright spotlight. The national coach massively displeased the news that he had to announce in his favorite place. At his home premiere with the heartbeat test against Turkey, the DFB head coach suddenly lacks number one. Marc-André ter Stegen will not only be out on Saturday (8.45 p.m./RTL) due to severe back pain, but also next Tuesday in Austria. Kevin Trapp should now be used in the goal against Turkey. Oliver Baumann and Janis Blaswich, the other alternatives in the squad, have never played for Germany.
Neuer will not be nominated again
The news from the DFB doctors about the goalkeeper’s retirement came so close to the national soccer team’s press conference that Nagelsmann had not yet come to a decision about filling the important position. The 36-year-old made it clear that Manuel Neuer’s subsequent nomination was not up for debate.
The Bayern goalkeeper had decided not to be nominated for the final European Championship tests in 2023 after his break of more than ten months. Ter Stegen’s absence will not change the playing direction. “We won’t start throwing the ball forward now,” said Nagelsmann.
National coach is looking forward to emotions in the stadium
Immediately after arriving in Berlin, Nagelsmann felt the special energy at the home European Championship final venue. There was a demonstration not far from the team hotel on Marlene-Dietrich-Platz in the heart of the capital. Security precautions were also taken in the nearby government district because of the parallel visit by Turkish head of state Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Berlin is always vibrating. And Nagelsmann does this in a sporty way.
“It’s always nice when you feel this emotionality in the stands. We’re also happy when the German fans roar along and oppose the Turkish fans in the stands, that’s clear,” said Nagelsmann before the next European Championship endurance test . The national coach wants to be back in the Olympic Stadium in 239 days – July 14, 2024. European Championship final. The 36-year-old could hardly have wished for a better location for his first home game as DFB head coach. “It’s a long way to the final. We’ll try to take a small step tomorrow,” said Nagelsmann.
A few hours after landing at BER, southeast of the city, we went to the final arena for the first inspection on Friday. Final training and final touches. Nagelsmann had already made his November motto clear during three days of practice on the DFB campus in Frankfurt. After the encouraging start with a new head coach in the USA in October, the national team now has to get the necessary tournament stability.
Defense is the sticking point
“We have to become more variable in defense. We are trying to develop our team tactics so that we allow less danger of scoring overall,” said Nagelsmann, explaining his second European Championship lesson for Mats Hummels and his colleagues, who were apparently relieved of their back pain just in time. The best way to defend is still “not to lose the marble.”
In nine international matches so far this year, Germany has only kept a clean sheet in the 2-0 win against Peru in March. In the eight other games, the average goals conceded was over two per game – too much for title ambitions. “Yes, of course we know that we still have to take a few steps forward by next summer, but I have full confidence in us doing that,” said Ilkay Gündogan.
For the DFB captain, the first international match against the country of his ancestors is of course a career highlight. “I’m hoping for a great football festival. I’m sure that both teams will be extremely motivated and it will hardly matter that it’s not a competitive game. Both teams will want to show that they are ready for the European Championships next year,” the 33-year-old told the German Press Agency.
No statements on politics
Gündogan avoided any political connotations. The topics brought up from outside, such as the memory of the Erdogan photos a good five years ago or the current political explosiveness caused by the Gaza war, must not become the focus for all national players and especially not for Gündogan. “Sport is the focus. The honest, tough competition,” said Nagelsmann.
Nobody says it officially, but the DFB is extremely happy that after his meetings with Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Erdogan didn’t even extend his visit to Berlin and sat in the Olympic Stadium on Saturday evening, attracting media attention. That would have once again massively diverted the focus from the sport.
However, the expected away game crowd with tens of thousands of Turkish fans really spurs Nagelsmann on. Leon Goretzka also likes the special atmosphere. The Bayern professional called the passion of the visiting fans “extremely impressive.” Resistance is certainly good for the DFB team in the run-up to the European Championship. Nagelsmann has already eliminated comfort zones with a tight, tactically demanding training program.
The warm-up music played on the DFB campus is a mosaic of the new culture at the national team. A lot of things have become looser under Nagelsmann. But a lot of things also seem much more stringent and focused. “We will achieve our goals if we get better now,” postulated goalkeeper Niclas Füllkrug’s mentality.
Kimmich has to deliver
Is Hummels’ back stable enough to be used in the starting eleven? Nagelsmann still left that open. One thing is clear: Benjamin Henrichs from Leipzig will defend at the back right. Joshua Kimmich is more of a six for Nagelsmann. After his fever-related absence in October, he is supposed to work alongside Gündogan again at the headquarters.
The pressure for the Bayern professional with leadership aspirations also exists in a possible 81st international match. In his absence, the humble substitute Pascal Groß worked splendidly against the USA (3:1) and Mexico (2:2). If the Kimmich/Gündogan duo doesn’t work on Saturday, the debate about the distribution of roles is inevitable.
They are also looking for a placeholder for the injured Jamal Musiala in the more attacking midfield position alongside Florian Wirtz. His Bayer colleague Jonas Hofmann currently has a clear lead in form compared to Arsenal’s Kai Havertz.
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