One last push for Euros qualification! Wins against Belarus on Saturday (20:45 CET) in Mönchengladbach and against Northern Ireland on Tuesday (20:45 CET) in Frankfurt would secure Germany’s place in the finals of the 2020 European Championship next summer. Manuel Neuer, Leon Goretzka and Oliver Bierhoff spoke to the press about the team’s upcoming matches. DFB.de kept track of the most important statements.
… Germany’s aims for the upcoming games: We obviously want to win both games and come away with six points. That’s our primary objective. However, we have to take these matches seriously and we learnt that in the reverse fixtures. I always prepare as if I am going to play but I haven’t heard from the coach on that front yet.
… the year so far: I think we’ve had a good year up to this point. We’ve had a year of change, but changes have taken place before. We aren’t where we want to be for next summer just yet. Nevertheless, we’re looking good and have taken a step in the right direction. We’re not at 100 percent yet, partly because not everyone is currently available.
… possible replacements for the injured Niklas Süle: We have several different options. Basically, some new players have come in but a decision is yet to be made. It’s not clear whether Niklas Süle will be back for the tournament. We have to try and find the back line that works best for us and defend well as a unit. We want to keep clean sheets and that will give us confidence.
… Germany’s team spirit: We all make mistakes, both on and off the pitch. But you can really see that we always stay together as a team. We all have a lot of respect for each other.
… his return to the senior side: Of course, I’m delighted. It’s always nice to come back into this team. After missing a couple of internationals you’re always even more excited to see everyone again. It’s especially great having overcome an injury.
… his role in midfield: We’ll have to wait and see what system the coach wants to play but I think I can fit into both setups. I don’t mind either way – I just want to help the team.
… the atmosphere in the team: I think we’ve taken a step forward as a team. We have talked about the principles and values that we want to represent and we’re ending the year well. We're a motley crew of really great guys. I always look forward to my time here. That's a prerequisite for success.
…a possible hierarchy: We are at a point where everyone is free to speak their mind. You don’t need to have 50 caps under your belt. Everyone needs to communicate out on the pitch. We’re all tactically well-trained and we know how to follow instructions and make sure everyone else is too. Communication helps everyone, regardless of how experienced they are.
… the status quo: We can clearly qualify, that is our main aim. We also want to play well and see the coach’s wishes transferred onto the pitch. It wasn’t an easy year, but it was a very satisfying one. At the beginning of the year, we were excited about building a young squad. I said back then that we would need to be patient and understanding. When you look at the intensive work that the manager is doing with the players from the outside, then everybody is happy. It is understandable that it doesn’t always come off over 90 minutes. It is just a shame that our rebuilding process and finding a new structure has been hampered by injuries. The team hasn’t been able to fully gel together. We hope that everything clicks into gear by the time the Euros roll around and that everybody plays with their club teams and finds the necessary consistency. I have never known our coaches to bury their heads in the sand; they are always looking for a creative solution. Of course you want to come first in your group, but the Netherlands have a strong team with some very experienced players. But we also know that there is still a way to go.
… the public image of the national team: Since 2004, a code of conduct has been important to us. In a team that Is constantly changing, players have to apply this over and over again. After 2018, we had a lot of discussions about what a player had to bring to the national team, and about what it means to play for Germany. We have developed on this and will apply it to the youth teams and the women’s team as well. We have composed a list of three core values: tolerance, responsibility and respect. The national team has defined itself on these values for a while now and is fuelled by them, this is also seen on social media. It is important that this code is respected by everyone involved with the national team, not just the players – this applies to us to. You are a Germany international for 365 days a year.
… the defensive situation in the absence of Süle: A good question. We have a few players, who have the quality to player in the heart of the defence. Obviously we had built heavily around Niklas Süle. There is no single player who stands out. Of course Matthias Ginter has a lot of experience. The same goes for Jonathan Tah at Leverkusen, he also has massive potential. Antonio Rüdiger brings a robustness and has been playing at the highest level in England for a while now. Robin Koch has also stepped in nicely. We have to make sure that the whole things works, not just on the basis on individual players.
… Toni Kroos: He has made a clear commitment to the national team. He has a huge workload at Real Madrid, and has hardly had any break. He said he wanted to drive this new era forward. We don’t need to discuss his technical ability as a player. With his experience, he can give the team stability, rhythm and direction in midfield. He has to face up to the competition just like anybody else, but he has a special and is a great role model.
… the interest of the spectators: We have done our analysis. We are ahead of the curve in international football; our stadiums are 90% full. Generally, we are very happy with our average attendance levels and thankfully our fans are coming to games, even when we aren’t playing against the bigger nations. Belarus is not an opponent that draws a crowd. We need to continue playing attractive power football for 90 minutes. Then it will give every fan a reason to come to watch a game.