National team: Against the noise: Neuer’s comeback as a European Championship signal

National team: Against the noise: Neuer’s comeback as a European Championship signal

Manuel Neuer has not played for Germany for 550 days. The number one is ready to face Ukraine in time for the European Championship. A friendly win should put an unpleasant topic to rest quickly.

Manuel Neuer can do without this noise during his hard-earned international comeback. When Germany’s number one is back in goal for the national football team on Monday evening (8.45 p.m./ARD) against Ukraine for the first time since the early and heavy World Cup knockout in Qatar, just in time, the only thing that will count is the ticking countdown to the European Championship at home. Neuer’s teammate Joshua Kimmich had already energetically intervened in the discussion that flared up over the weekend about poll results on migration and diversity in the DFB selection.

The Munich right-back called the result of a WDR survey, according to which one in five people would like to see more white players in the German national team again, “nonsense” and “racist”. Kimmich’s reaction was vehement and, from Julian Nagelsmann’s point of view, hopefully final. Because it was precisely such distractions from the sporting title master plan that the national coach wanted to avoid at all costs now and in the coming weeks.

All DFB officials, including DFB President Bernd Neuendorf, made it clear that the focus should be on sport. Germany wants to be a happy, carefree host. June 14th, with the opening match against Scotland in Munich, is the fixed date for a dream start to the sporting campaign. For Neuer and his colleagues, the knee-jerk comments on the ongoing social issue of immigration are an unpleasant déjà vu.

550 days since Neuer’s last game

When Neuer last stood in the DFB goal 550 days ago, not only was the World Cup exit sealed in the useless 4:2 defeat against Costa Rica. The realization had matured that the multitude of social side issues surrounding host country Qatar had also caused the sporting focus to slip fatally. Neuer in particular had become a central figure as captain at the time due to the armband discussion.

Nagelsmann and DFB sports director Rudi Völler will do everything they can to quickly put an end to the debate about the origins of the ancestors of many national players. “When you consider that we are facing a European Championship at home, it is absurd to ask such a question when the aim is actually to unite the whole country. It is now just about achieving great things together. As a team, we are trying to get everyone in Germany behind us,” said Bayern professional Kimmich.

Typical of the discussion: the focus is suddenly on the 20 percent who are against diversity. And not on the 65 percent who, according to the survey, have no problem with migration and origin. “We ourselves are dismayed that the results are what they are, but they are also an expression of the social situation in Germany today,” said WDR sports director Karl Valks. The survey was commissioned after a reporter from the station was confronted with racist statements while filming the documentary “Unity and Justice and Diversity”.

For Neuer, too, it is of no importance at all what skin color or religion his colleagues have. Before his eighth tournament in a row as number one since the 2010 World Cup, the 38-year-old had some really important issues to deal with.

Kimmich expresses great respect

His severe leg fracture in a skiing accident shortly after Qatar threatened his career. “It’s an incredible achievement what he accomplished. Not only that he came back, but also the way in which he came back,” said Kimmich.

The training injury in March, which prevented Neuer from taking part in the tests in France (2:0) and against the Netherlands (2:1), was comparatively harmless. And the gastrointestinal infection that forced Neuer to start preparations for the European Championships late was even more harmless. Neuer is ready – much to the chagrin of his eternal deputy Marc-André ter Stegen.

“I’m still very euphoric. I’m in a positive mood. I’m looking forward to what’s to come,” said Neuer in Herzogenaurach. After 117 international matches, the veteran knows how important the Ukraine test and the final European Championship match against Greece on Friday in Mönchengladbach will be. “The two test matches are very important for us, this is the final status report. If we get positive results, the first match will be a little easier,” said Neuer.

Minimum three changes

Nagelsmann can now continue his radical European Championship personnel plan with a well-filled squad. One thing is certain: There will be at least three changes to the March squad against Ukraine. “We are trying to give stability to the delicate little plant,” was Nagelsmann’s motto for the preparations.

Neuer is playing in place of ter Stegen. Regulars Toni Kroos and Antonio Rüdiger are still missing after their Champions League triumph with Real Madrid against their Dortmund European Championship colleagues Niclas Füllkrug and Nico Schlotterbeck. The first replacement for Kroos is Pascal Groß. Stuttgart’s Waldemar Anton could move up the defense line for Rüdiger. Füllkrug and Schlotterbeck are among the reserve players anyway.

Nagelsmann’s Champions League quartet will not arrive in Franconia until after the friendly match. Then the political issues should be finally cleared away. That is what the past has taught us. Migration was also a topic of discussion before the 2016 European Championship and the 2018 World Cup. Eight years ago, AfD politician Alexander Gauland provoked people with exclusionary statements against Jérôme Boateng – and received criticism, ridicule, but also attention.

Two years later, the photos of Mesut Özil and the current DFB captain Ilkay Gündogan with the Turkish head of state Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave rise to an extensive debate about the affiliation of the descendants of immigrants. It reached state-supporting dimensions and was cited as one of the reasons for the early World Cup knockout in Russia.

Source: Stern

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