With Scotland, Hungary and Switzerland, the DFB selection got a supposedly easy European Championship draw. But the national players cannot feel safe at all. The national coach makes sure of that.
With the lucky ticket in the pocket of his dark suit, Julian Nagelsmann was able to calmly make his way through the corridors of Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie. Neither the slight fever nor the thought of the strenuous drive through the night back to Munich fazed the national coach.
Scotland, Hungary and Switzerland were interesting enough as group opponents to make the home European Championships look credibly respectful – but also easy enough to immediately shift the focus again. Shortly before Christmas, the national soccer players received a clear and not very thoughtful announcement.
“I can promise one thing – that we are not helpless,” said Nagelsmann in a small hall of the large concert hall and, after the massive November disappointments, announced significant changes to the DFB selection, in terms of content and personnel. For one or two players, the dream of playing at home in March could suddenly be very far away. After the 2:3 against Turkey and 0:2 in Vienna against Austria, practically everyone has to worry.
Germany is not a favorite
“There is no radical cure now that we leave ten players at home and invite ten new ones, but there will be some changes in the structure because we also have a changed national team in terms of self-image and in the way we perform,” said Nagelsmann, leaving a lot of room for interpretation. There was no longer any talk of the final goal that association boss Bernd Neuendorf had given out of nowhere.
“We shouldn’t underestimate anyone. We have to make sure we get back on track,” said DFB sports director Rudi Völler, who confirmed the March plan with test matches in France and against the Netherlands. With his nebulous announcement of a change, Nagelsmann opened the now four-month-long discussion among fans and experts about what – and who – the national coach could have meant. That seemed to be exactly what Nagelsmann wanted.
Ailing Nagelsmann defies snow chaos
The 36-year-old sat in the car for a good eight hours before the draw in order to make it from Munich to the Elbphilharmonie in time despite the flight being canceled due to snow in the south. Some of them already had a fever, as the national coach, who was in poor health, reported. Anyone who spends such a long time driving on the highway can have a lot to think about. In the morning the national coach was back in Munich.
“Julian is a young guy who got into the car. He really wanted to be there,” said Völler with a gesture that he liked this effort. The former team boss has been preaching the humility with which the national team can make it back into the hearts of the fans for weeks. The national team is “not a team that comes onto the pitch and plays away the opponent,” said Nagelsmann.
EM opponents with a history
That’s why Scotland, Hungary and Switzerland are not the Netherlands, Italy and Denmark. But still challenging tasks – each in its own way. Tens of thousands of away fans are expected in the Bavarian capital for the start against the Scots on June 14th in Munich. “Positively crazy fans,” said tournament director Philipp Lahm. The second game against Hungary on June 19th has the background to the politically charged European Championship 2021 group game with Leon Goretzka’s heart gesture in front of angry, right-wing Hungarian fans.
Switzerland at the German conclusion of the preliminary round on June 23rd in Frankfurt/Main is perhaps the strongest opponent “on paper”, said Nagelsmann. Nati coach Murat Yakin has a Bundesliga past, leader Granit Xhaka, who is causing a sensation with Bayer Leverkusen, lives in Düsseldorf in Völler’s house, as he reported. “We have respect for all opponents, but they also have respect for us,” said Neuendorf. The DFB selection has stopped spreading fear and anxiety for a long time; England, Spain and Italy are already threatening in the round of 16.
Four years ago, Joachim Löw also tried a March change; the national coach at the time threw Mats Hummels, Jérôme Boateng and Thomas Müller out of the squad – it didn’t help. Hummels and Müller later celebrated their comeback and were also among Nagelsmann’s selection in October and November. “I have a clear opinion about all the players,” said Nagelsmann – and only mentioned one name.
The number one
Captain Manuel Neuer will return to the squad “if he stays healthy and plays like he does now,” confirmed the national coach. The race for the European Championship place in the German goal will be a main topic surrounding the DFB selection in March. Marc-André ter Stegen missed the November games due to injury, which was perhaps bearable for him given the results, but it cost him valuable minutes of play.
Neuer will return with the aim of experiencing the home European Championship on the field for the entire season – at the start in front of tens of thousands of Scottish fans in the Munich arena.
I am Pierce Boyd, a driven and ambitious professional working in the news industry. I have been writing for 24 Hours Worlds for over five years, specializing in sports section coverage. During my tenure at the publication, I have built an impressive portfolio of articles that has earned me a reputation as an experienced journalist and content creator.