The end of Euros qualifying is almost upon us as Germany get set to face Northern Ireland on Tuesday (20:45 CET) at the Commerzbank-Arena in Frankfurt. Head coach Joachim Löw and midfield motor Toni Kroos reflect on the past year of international action and look ahead to the final game. DFB.de has put together all the most important quotes from their press conference.
...Germany’s past year: First and foremost, I would like to give credit for the team because securing qualification for the tournament next summer was always the most important thing and this new team with a lot of young players in it got the job done. We now have the opportunity to make sure we finish top of our group. It’s a great feeling to be in this position and I am very pleased. We’ve had a tough year. It started with a lot of upheaval and there was more upheaval recently because ten players got injured or are still injured. Nevertheless, we were commanding in our qualifying campaign.
...his team’s qualities: The team is very ambitious and willing. They always give their all even when some things aren’t going to plan. They radiate energy on and off the pitch. Our team spirit is great but there are a few teams that are probably developed more than us, like England, France, Spain, Italy and Belgium. They’ve been playing together for three or four years, which is not the case for us. We’re not currently one of the favourites to win the tournament in the summer. We just have to give it our best shot, prepare well and try to hit our best form at the tournament. It wouldn’t be helpful to put more pressure on the team by raising expectations too high. We do have a lot of potential and quality and we have to continue to head in the right direction.
...the plan for the Northern Ireland game: I’ll obviously make a couple of changes to the team tomorrow. Some players will benefit from an opportunity to play but it’s also good to keep a certain core. I would like to see what a couple of players can do and hopefully it will give them confidence.
...his potential starting XI: I am planning to make a change to the left side of our lineup because Nico Schulz has got a bit of a knee problem. I want to give Jonas Hector another chance and keep Nico available as back up. Marc-André ter Stegen will be in goal, as I already announced. I need to think a bit more about the centre of our defence but I think we’ll start with Ilkay Gündogan, Toni Kroos and Joshua Kimmich in midfield.
...his squad for EURO 2020: I don’t know what’s going to happen next year. It’s difficult to predict how soon some players will come back from injury. It’s also important to pay attention to players’ form in January and February. We’ll just have to see what the situation is then.
...Emre Can: He brings strength and robustness to our team. He has a lot of international experience and I thought he did a great job at centre-back against Argentina. His tackling is impressive and he will certainly be part of our plans.
...Waldschmidt’s injury: We spoke yesterday and he said goodbye again. It hit us really hard, especially seeing how many injuries he sustained. I believe he is having an operation on his face today. There’s also a chance that he has damaged an ankle ligament but we’ll know more after further examinations in Freiburg. It’s a great shame for him – he had barely been on the pitch. He has tremendous ambition and is a fantastic finisher. This injury is tough for him and for us.
...the Euros draw on 30th November: It doesn’t really matter to me which pot we end up being placed in, whether it’s the first or the second. Portugal and Croatia could also be in the second pot but we know we can beat strong teams anyway. 2018 showed us that you have to take every opponent seriously and treat every group game like a knockout match. You just have to play the games the draw gives you.
...players returning from injury: Thilo Kehrer has been back in team training for the past two weeks but needs a couple more weeks until he’s ready. Julian Draxler has been training even longer and doing so without any pain or discomfort at the moment. But they both have some catching up to do before they’re match fit. Antonio Rüdiger will return to training on Wednesday. Kevin Trapp needs more time to recover from his shoulder surgery and probably won’t play before the end of the year. However, he will hopefully be back in action for Eintracht after the winter break.
...the European Championship: We’re going through a process and we’re still just starting to develop. At the moment, I see a very ambitious and strong-willed team with a lot of potential, albeit one that still has a lot of growth ahead of them. We could reach our peak in a similar fashion to the team in 2010. A lot of things have to come together at a major tournament. We are working hard to make sure we have a good tournament and play as well as we possibly can. Some of our tactics are already working really well and in March we’ll get to see where we stand in relation to other top teams, such as Spain.
...Niklas Stark: I am considering giving him his debut. I am waiting to see what happens in training this evening because Northern Ireland pose a real aerial threat. A defender has to head the ball more than he would like. The game is more important than individual players but if he can 100 percent commit to challenges then we will make plans to include him.
...the past year: In the end, we qualified confidently and some of our new players got valuable minutes. I would probably give our year a B.
...the final game of the year: We want to win. The fact we have the chance to finish top of our group is an extra bit of motivation for us.
...the team’s relationship with the fans: There was a lot of positivity coming from the stands when we went round the stadium after the game in Gladbach. The people who came were pleased with what they saw. We’re still slightly in the shadow of our World Cup exit and we have to work hard as a team to pull ourselves out of it. That process began straight after the World Cup and we played much better. We’re starting to give fans reasons to come and watch us play again. As a team, we are doing our best to make sure that those who come to the stadium do not go home disappointed.
...playing in midfield alongside Joshua Kimmich: We’ve been playing this way since the first game of the World Cup and I’m enjoying it. Jo is hard to play against for the opposition and causes them a lot of problems. I’m not surprised that it’s working so well and we’re in harmony. Defensive midfield is an important area for dominating and winning games. I hope that we will continue to complement each other and celebrate a lot of wins together.
...the upheaval in the team: You can see that there have been a lot of changes and it’s normal for things not to work perfectly all the time. Nevertheless, it was necessary. The coach has made the right decisions. It would not have been better to use a different formation. We’ve already made progress and our young players are getting much more game time. We will just have to wait and see if we can be one of the top teams in the summer. Hopefully, we will put in some good performances in our March internationals. It’s important that we do well against opponents like that so that we can go into the Euros feeling positive. We are on the right path. I don’t know exactly how well the Euros will go for us, but I have a good feeling.
...the replacement players: What’s important is that we follow the instructions of the coaching team, regardless of who is playing in what position. Whoever is playing just has to get a feel for their position. When someone gets injured, our non-regular players are also important. We only have five games left until the Euros kick off, which isn’t a lot. We have to make the most of every minute.