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National team: Rüdiger and Tah: Germany has “defense monsters”

National team: Rüdiger and Tah: Germany has “defense monsters”
National team: Rüdiger and Tah: Germany has “defense monsters”

Antonio Rüdiger and Jonathan Tah are responsible for protecting the German goal. Together with goalkeeper Neuer, they form a bulwark that has set out to refute a statement made by Nagelsmann at the European Championships.

Antonio Rüdiger was also amazed. “Oh, it’s been that long,” exclaimed the German defense chief when he learned shortly after the 2-0 win against Hungary that the national football team had kept a clean sheet in a game at a major tournament for the first time since the 2016 European Championship in France.

The 31-year-old Real Madrid central defender also immediately named the main reason: “I think we can thank Manuel Neuer – primarily. He did a very good job.”

Indeed. The 38-year-old European record goalkeeper, who was suspected before the start of the tournament of not being able to keep goals like Manuel Neuer of the world champion past, was a guarantor of the clean sheet in Stuttgart. But he was not the only one. The DFB team also has two gigantic athletes in the middle of the defense in Antonio Rüdiger and Jonathan Tah, who rigorously protect their own goal. “The collaboration with Jonathan works well,” said Rüdiger.

Neuer, Rüdiger, Tah like 2014 Neuer, Boateng, Hummels?

Anyone who wants to win titles needs a solid defense – despite all the offensive power with artists like Jamal Musiala or Florian Wirtz. At the 2014 World Cup triumph in Brazil, the then 28-year-old Neuer formed a defensive bulwark with Jérôme Boateng and Mats Hummels – flanked by Philipp Lahm and Benedikt Höwedes – which even the final opponent Argentina with world star Lionel Messi bounced off.

And ten years later? Neuer, Rüdiger, Tah as the next European champion trio? That would be an astonishing development if you think back just seven months. Julian Nagelsmann sat there in dreary November after the 0:2 defeat in the friendly against Austria in Vienna and said disillusioned: “We won’t be defensive monsters in the summer either.” A mistake? That remains to be seen, not until Sunday (9 p.m./ARD/MagentaTV) at the end of the preliminary round in Frankfurt against Switzerland. And then in the knockout rounds.

Nagelsmann helped to refute his monster theory by deciding on Rüdiger and Tah as the central defender duo early on in the European Championship year. And he dropped Hummels after learning from the defeats against Turkey and Austria. The national coach also recognized that in his European Championship role-plays, an alpha male like Hummels on the bench would not have been a sensible team-building measure for the home tournament. And from a sporting point of view, pushing the defensive line extremely high up with Hummels would hardly have been practical. The 35-year-old lacks the speed for that.

Rüdiger and Tah, on the other hand, quickly got along. “I’ve known Toni for a long time. We get on very well personally – also on the pitch,” said 28-year-old Tah. They can physically attack opponents, block, are fast and have strong headers. And both joined the European Championship team pumped full of self-confidence: Rüdiger as Spanish champion and Champions League winner, Tah from Leverkusen as German champion and DFB Cup winner. “I’m here with the desire to continue to be successful,” said Tah.

Handicap: Yellow card suspension in the round of 16 threatened

Rüdiger has been appointed as the head of defence by the national coach. He himself does not see his role as a great speaker on the pitch, but more as an “emotional leader”. But for Rüdiger, Tah is “also a leader”. The Leverkusen player, who was often described as the clumsy Tah in international matches, is playing by far the best season of his career, and FC Bayern is keen to buy him from their new rivals Bayer 04 in the summer. “For me, he is the best centre-back in Germany,” said Rüdiger about Tah, adding, of course, “in the Bundesliga.” The very best is still himself, that should imply.

Against the Hungarians, however, Tah was the more conspicuous player. With a spectacular flying tackle in the opponent’s half, he set up Musiala’s 1-0. Later on, the defender was applauded several times when he stopped an opponent quickly, ran away or cleared balls. “It’s always a nice move as a defender. You don’t get that many moments of celebration because you don’t score that many goals,” said Tah in appreciation.

Germany’s new defensive monsters are going into the next games with a handicap. Both have already seen a yellow card, Tah against Scotland, Rüdiger for complaining against Hungary. The next warning will result in a suspension. Then Waldemar Anton from Stuttgart as a back-up for Rüdiger or Nico Schlotterbeck from Dortmund as a back-up for Tah would have to show that they too can defend like monsters.

Source: Stern

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