The German national team take on Italy on Tuesday in what will be their last international match of the calendar year. DFB President Reinhard Grindel, head coach Joachim Löw, team manager Oliver Bierhoff and world champion Mats Hummels all spoke about the private audience with the Pope and the classic fixture against the Squadra Azzura ahead of this duel in the Guiseppe Meazza Stadium.
… The audience with Pope Francis: Having an audience with the Pope was very moving and impressed all of us. It was a special experience for everybody. He touched each and every one of us with his words.
… The team’s brief visit to Rome: It was the right decision to travel to Rome after the match in San Marino. We had a lovely tour around the city and also had the opportunity to do several other things. However from today our concentration is solely on the match against Italy.
... The line-up against Italy: Every player is fit. Benedikt Höwedes and Bernd Leno will definitely play. In addition it is pretty likely that Yannick Gerhardt will start in place of Jonas Hector. If Sebastian Rudy is to play, I plan for him to play in midfield rather than in defence.
… The strengths of Mario Gomez: Mario had an injury after the Euros, which was a setback for him. He is a striker that has always been outstanding. He has terrific quality qualities with his right foot, left food and his head and he showed that during the European Championships. He had a very good year in Istanbul, scoring a lot of goals and is now really well at Wolfsburg. He is very valuable for us.
… Newcomer Benjamin Henrichs: He is absolutely capable of playing a good and important role for us in the next few years.
… Leon Goretzka’s qualities: He is one of the most talented players in his age group. He has a very good technique with and without the ball and has a brilliant personality. The most important thing for him is that he is not held back with injuries.
… Integrating young players: This process naturally takes a while. Not every young player can be a key member of the team immediately. We try to keep in regular contact with all players, including those who aren’t often in the national team, in order to point out the important things for their development. The older players are also important since they can speak regularly with the new and younger players in the squad.
… The Italian team: I don’t see much of a difference between their current team and the one from the Euros. The Italians have their own style, which they have been playing for years. We expect to face a team that is tactically brilliantly organised and will want to put us under pressure from the outset. Italy are very quick-thinking going forward which helps them create danger. I think that both teams can play without pressure and more freely than when we faced each other in the Euros.
… The burden on the players… I fully appreciate the burden on the players during these friendlies in November. I always think hard about how it will affect individuals before I call them up. I know all the times when we will be in action so no player will return to his club overworked.###more### ###more###
... The audience with Pope Francis: This was a visit and a moment that none of us will forget. The Pope moved us all. His warmth and friendliness is very infectious. You could sense that he enjoyed the occasion. I had the huge honour of addressing the Pope with a few words, in which I stressed that our team stands our team stands for diversity and that football does not just connect us, but people worldwide. Overall we were together with the Pope for about 20 minutes. We experienced him as the world does, as a normal and very open-minded friend of mankind. He essentially spoke about the significance of sport and team spirit. We addressed the same issues, particularly the unifying strength of football.
the audience with Pope Francis: It was really impressive. Neither the team, nor myself, will forget that moment.
the clash with Italy: Flipping the switch won’t be a problem for us. We’ve played some great games against Italy in the past. I hope tomorrow’s game will be just the same.
bogey team Italy: I have only ever played tough games against Italy. However, the last few games we’ve palyed against Italy have been very successful for us. No curse has been lifted through our most recent victory because back then, I wasn’t a part of the bitter defeats.
the recent success: This time round we have a lot of new faces. Yet the success comes from a mixture of experienced and young players. There is currently great team spirit and a really good working environment in the group. These are good foundations for success.
the impact of the trip to Rome: The trip to Rome was a hugely successful outing for the team. You could sense even on the journey there, that each of the different buildings and their history was extremely impressive. The visit to the Vatican and the audience with Pope Francis formed the perfect end.
the development of the team: The start we have made since the EUROS in the summer makes me very happy. You can see there are a lot of new players in the team also. The development of these players gives a lot of hope. We wanted to continue on with our good form here in Milan and are really looking forward to the clash against Italy.
the workload of the players: Obviously this topic crops up again and again. Especially for the young players, it can only be a good thing for them to spend time in and around this environment. That also has advantages not only for the national team, but also for the players’ respective clubs as well.