The German national team begin World Cup qualification with a match against Iceland on Thursday (20:45 CET). Back with the squad is Emre Can (27), who was missing through injury last time out. The 30-cap international discusses the upcoming games, his role in the team and his relationship with the departing head coach.
DFB.de: Emre Can, you are back with the Germany squad for the first time in five months. How does it feel to be back, and how have things changed due to the coronavirus pandemic?
Emre Can: First of all I’m happy that we are able to meet again. It’s always an honour to play for my national team. The atmosphere is good, we really enjoyed seeing each other again. It’s a bit different from before the pandemic because we have to observe the health precautions. We are alone in our rooms more often than before.
DFB.de: Are there restrictions in the day-to-day routine?
Can: Our contact with each other is strictly limited. We only see each other when eating, training or having a team meeting. Our players from England are in their own bubble within the bubble. They travel with a separate bus, for example.
DFB.de: You were named as a defender in the Germany squad, but you have also played in central or defensive midfield. Where do you think you will play in the upcoming games?
Can: Time will tell, I don’t know what the coach has planned. This season though, I have often played in the centre of defence. In my career I have always taken on the various roles that were entrusted to me. The position where I have the most value is in the middle, whether that’s in midfield or in defence.
DFB.de: Have you gotten used to the role of centre back? It wasn’t your favourite position before...
Can: Yes, I feel really comfortable there now. A few years ago, I saw things a bit differently. But now I have gotten used to it.
DFB.de: Is your versatility an advantage or a disadvantage?
Can: Both. The advantage is that you can leap into different positions to help the team. The disadvantage is that sometimes you can’t consistently play in one position to get used to it.
DFB.de: Do you see yourself as a concrete part of the team?
Can: I’m definitely a concrete part of the squad. In recent years, whenever I’ve been fit I have been in the squad. Whether I’m in the starting lineup, we will see. I hope to play from the start at the Euros. The coach knows that and he knows what I’m capable of. He is placed his trust in me often enough and I have paid him back.
DFB.de: Last year, you gave an interview in which you said that: “I don’t have to hide from anybody, I have played for huge clubs.”
Can: That is still true. I’ve been playing at the highest level for years now. I have played in top teams and won titles. I don’t need to hide from anybody.
DFB.de: There are three World Cup qualifiers ahead. What do you expect from the games against Iceland, Romania and North Macedonia?
Can: With all due respect, Germany’s goal has to be to win all three games. We want to feel good heading into the Euros next summer. After the defeat against Spain last time out [6-0 in November], we have to make it right. We want to show reaction and be successful.
DFB.de: You missed the game against Spain. Has the game been broken down and worked upon?
Can: The coaching staff have dicsused it with us. One thing is clear: as a national team, we can’t let that happen ever again. It was a slip up that didn’t have to happen. Now we have to come back stronger.
DFB.de: Is the team excited by the chance to put things right?
Can: Yes, and Iceland is the place to start.
DFB.de: Iceland lost all of their games in last year’s nations league. What do you make of our opponents?
Can: Iceland’s strength is in how they set up as one united team. They didn’t get to the Euros and the World Cup for nothing. They don’t have any superstars but they are a well-functioning team, compact and up for a fight.
DFB.de: What do you think of the Icelandic fans and the ‘thunderclap’ that we saw at the Euros and the World Cup?
Can: It’s really good. That was cool.
DFB.de: It’s the beginning of the end for head coach Joachim Löw, who is leaving after the Euros. How has he been in the last few days?
Can: He gave a short speech but he didn’t waste too many words discussing it. He thanked the team and shared his decision to leave after the Euros. He is really motivated and wants to prove himself once more. As a team, we want to give him a nice send-off.
DFB.de: How is your personal relationship with him?
Can: Very good. I’ve always been here when I’ve been fit, like I said already. I’ve always felt his trust in me. For me though, it is even more important how he is as a person. He is a great guy, just a top bloke who is always polite and very respectful to everyone. I found his humanity just as important as his capabilities as a coach.