The goal is clear – Germany are targeting a win over Ukraine in the penultimate match of the UEFA Nations League campaign (Saturday, 20.45 CET). But Joachim Löw will also have on eye on next summer’s European Championship as the team gels together. At his final press conference ahead of the match, Germany’s head coach was joined by Timo Werner as he discussed his team selection. DFB.de was taking notes.
Joachim Löw on...
...where the team is at: After such a turbulent last few months, it's not a surprise how things are going. It can’t all go smoothly with the long break and the coronavirus pandemic, I knew that already. We have used our last two games to get the team used to playing with each other. It’s a balance between protecting individual players and gelling in time for the Euros. The squad came together yesterday – Julian Brandt has a slight muscle issue, but other than that everybody is ready to go.
...the Nations League: A win in the Nations League is obviously possible. I will make the goal quite clear to the team, though – it’s all about winning on Saturday. I won’t talk about Spain today because I know what lies ahead of us. We will need to overcome really strong resistance if we are to get past Ukraine. They are back at full strength, unlike the match in Kiev. They have also beaten Spain and Switzerland, and that doesn’t just happen by chance. They have lots of fast players, lots of technically sound players who are good on the counter-attack. They also know how to defend, though, and every player is committed back there. We saw that for ourselves in Ukraine. Spain failed to break through, they were getting countered and they couldn’t find the right answers. The team has to push to the limit tomorrow. They have to play with full intensity and passion.
...Niklas Süle: We have been in constant talks with Niklas in the last few days, and with our doctors as well. He has come through two days of training in Munich and so we decided to make him a late call-up to the squad. He’s made a good first impression and from that you can assume that he will play tomorrow.
...the front three: You can also assume that Leroy Sané, Serge Gnabry and Timo Werner will start. Leroy has missed a lot of football so I am happy that he is back with us. Those three have such great speed – you see that both with and without the ball. They are extremely fast, which means that they are always dangerous in matches. We still have to fine-tune their movements, because all three like to make similar runs. In terms of pure speed, though, all three are well ahead of the competition. If they use it right then they are a serious threat.
...Timo Werner’s development: I’m happy that Timo has hit the ground running in the Premier League. He has a good reputation, he is well-respected and recognised within the team. He always scores a lot of goals and he barely has any problems adapting. He is someone who can remain ice-cool when his speed gets him through on goal. He creates a lot of his own chances and he knows what he has to do to get opportunities.
...defensive issues in recent matches: It’s the entire team’s problem – it’s about what you do when you don’t have the ball, and it comes down to individuals. Against Switzerland and Spain we said that we would try something out. We pressed the opposition early, but then that leaves gaps for the opponent. That’s the risk I had to take. Now it is about striking the balance between taking risks and defending well. It was a step in the right direction, even at the risk of conceding a goal or making a mistake.
...the left back position: The position was locked down for a long time, but that’s changed in the last two or three years. Three players are currently missing. Robin Gosens got off to a good start with us but is now injured. Marcel Halstenberg is also out and you can see that Nico Schulz is still a little off the pace after his various injuries. So now Philipp Max is here, and he did well against the Czech Republic. He played with courage and self-confidence and is obviously an option for tomorrow.
...central midfield without Toni Kroos and Joshua Kimmich: We are well-stocked in the middle – that’s really satisfying for a coach. With Ilkay Gündogan, Florian Neuhaus and even Kai Havertz, we have a crazy number of options. Ilkay is all set to play tomorrow.
...an increased squad size for the Euros: In my experience, 20 outfielders and 3 goalkeepers is enough for a tournament. Most players who travel are usually ready to play and there are just one or two who need a little help to get back to the highest level. It’s also a good number for training, as it allows you to put two full teams together. It’s always worked in the past. Experience has shown that most of the time not every player gets to make an appearance. In the end you take the players who are fit and in a good rhythm.
Timo Werner on...
...returning to Leipzig: I have been really looking forward to coming back here. I had a great time during my four years here. It felt a little like I was coming home after being on holiday. I always like returning to Leipzig, so international games here are always twice as special.
...the Nations League: The Nations League was introduced so that you have competitive games against other very good teams. It’s also a really good test, especially ahead of the Euros. When you’re taking part in a competition, you always want to win and finish first in the group, qualify for the final four and then win that as well. That is the kind of success that brings a team together and helps it to improve.
...Chelsea: Sides use long balls more often in England – it’s a different style of play to the national side. But obviously you get stronger when you’re playing against strong opponents. You see space differently, and that helps in the national side too. But it does differ here as the coaches have different ideas of how to play football. I’ve definitely got more used to the physicality and I hope to show that with the national side.
...the perception of the national side in England: I think people rate the national side highly. People see us as a good side with lots of potential, and they think we can improve from year to year.
...the style of play under Joachim Löw: The head coach really values being strong on the ball in build-up play, but he’s preferred a fast counter-attacking style in the last few months. We’ve changed our game now to look for the space.
...the pace of Sané and Gnabry: We’re really fast and direct. I wouldn’t want to be playing against us. It’s not just us three – we have lots of depth in attack.
...the mood after the last few internationals: We’ve drawn a lot but not lost. Obviously we always want to win, but when you look at the games, you have to say that we weren’t bad. I think we’ve not had the luck we need. In terms of our attitude and how we played, we were good. If we keep working and have a little luck too, we’ll be fine.