Germany’s second match in the UEFA Nations League is upon us. Die Mannschaft will face the Netherlands in Amsterdam on Saturday (20:45 CEST) and the team arrived in the Dutch capital earlier today. Germany head coach Joachim Löw and forward Thomas Müller are looking forward to facing Germany’s historic rivals. Here are the thoughts of the player and coach from this afternoon’s press conference in the Johan-Cruyff-Arena.
…the pre-match preparations and the squad: It was a bit hectic last weekend until our final squad was confirmed. There were a few players who had to withdraw from the squad who would have featured in both matches. At the same time, we were able to have three training sessions together as a squad, something we have complained about not having in the past. Emre Can, Bernd Leno and Serge Gnabry have quickly settled into the squad and we know them well from their previous squad appearances. We believe we have prepared ourselves very well for the two upcoming Nations League matches. There are only four matches in this competition; therefore losing one of those matches can put you on the back foot. However, I like the Nations League tournament as each match matters. None of our players are injured and all of them have trained and travelled here to Amsterdam. We are optimistic for the task at hand.
…the starting lineup: After Antonio Rüdiger withdrew from the squad, we still have Nico Schulz and Jonas Hector available for selection at left-back. Matthias Ginter will play on the right once again as Joshua Kimmich will play in a central role in defensive midfield. Thomas Müller will also start this match.
…the competition at left-back: We have watched Philipp Max (FC Augsburg) a few times and he has been playing well both this season and last year too. In my opinion, Nico is slightly stronger than Max. They both play in a similar style but Nico is a little bit stronger defensively. Jonas Hector may now play in the 2.Bundesliga but he has delivered some very strong performances for us since 2016. I am ignoring what happened at the World Cup as everyone didn’t perform as well as we hoped we would. Jonas and Nico are both playing to a similar high standard in my opinion. Nico played very well against Peru and Jonas assisted many goals over the two years he has been a part of the squad. I don’t believe that Jonas has lost any quality to his play merely because he is now playing in the second tier.
…the right balance between attack and defence: We have to find this balance between attack and defence. Our Nations League contains two very strong tournament teams in France and the Netherlands. Both teams usually feature in the quarter finals or semi finals of major tournaments. We have to defend well and stay compact. For a large part of the France match, we did this very well and have to work harder to find the right balance between our strong attacking threats and not being caught on the counter attack. We have to additionally work on keeping our compact shape but quickly turning defence into attack when we get the ball.
…training over the last few days: We trained very hard over the last few days whilst being cautious over ensuring we didn’t work too hard. The players were very focused and we have worked on what we started to do in the September international break. Of course, with the mid-week fixtures, we haven’t been able to train for a full week. However, we are in a good place mentally for the match tomorrow.
…facing a potential relegation battle in the Nations League: Of course we do not want to get relegated from Group 1, but qualifying for the European Championship in 2020 is the most important thing facing us at the moment. We have set out qualification as our main aim. We have some tough opponents in the Nations League and of course we want to win the group. However, it isn’t the end of the world if we don’t reach the Nations League final tournament.
…the squad members from FC Bayern München: The Bayern players have made a good impression in training and haven’t been in bad spirits. Jerome, Mats, Manuel and Thomas have all been through phases like this before. They are frustrated for a couple of days after failing to win but this stops and they focus on their next match. You wouldn’t have noticed that they might have been feeling a bit down. They were motivated in training, Thomas Müller giving me a particularly good impression. The players don’t allow themselves to dwell on a poor performance. We want to use our performance against France as a pivot to improve. I have full faith in my players.
…tomorrow night’s opponents: “There has been a true, historical rivalry between germany and the Netherlands. We have played them once or twice in recent years but they have struggled in recent times, failing to qualify for each of the last two major tournaments in 2016 and 2018. However, they are back on the global stage and have a strong team. The 3-0 win over Norway is a clear example of this. It is normal for small teams to continue to struggle after a period of disappointment. However, they have learnt their lesson and making signs of improvement.
…feeling under pressure: I don’t feel any more pressure now as coach compared with other situations during my tenure. There are always situations where you have to accept defeats. I don’t feel any more pressure to perform in the Nations League compared with the 2006, 2010 or 2014 World Cups.
…preparations for tomorrow’s match: We have two difficult matches ahead of us against strong opponents. We want to and should secure points in both matches. We want to win both matches and put ourselves in a good position in our Nations League group. We understand the situation we are in and are motivated to get the results we need. We have trained well, especially on Tuesday, and training has been hard work. We go into tomorrow’s game with fresh minds as we have had a few days to prepare. You could see our relaxed attitudes in our public training session and we want to carry this mindset into the match.
…targets for the match in Amsterdam: We want to play well and secure all three points. Of course we want to be successful in the Nations League, just like in all tournaments. We will invest everything we have into tomorrow’s match.
…meeting former German cyclist Kristina Vogel: That was very moving as lots of things can happen in life which you do not expect such as what happened to Kristina. You should always be open to new things and appreciate when things go well in life. Meeting Kristina was good as she is a very open person and she has a very strong personality. This has helped me a lot. It is extremely impressive to see how she has dealt with certain things. She has been through a lot and I hope we gave her courage or the feeling that she belongs to our group. Asking questions would not be the best thing to do in this situation but it is normal to welcome her thoughts into our lives.