One day to go before Germany’s first chance to secure their place at EURO 2020. The national team’s penultimate qualifier kicks off at 20:45 CET against Belarus. Ahead of the clash, head coach Joachim Löw spoke to the press at the team hotel in Düsseldorf about the mood in the dressing room and a possible line-up. He was joined by Matthias Ginter, who answered questions on his individual development. DFB.de jotted down the quotes.
...the status quo: We’re two steps away from our first goal. We obviously want to win both games in order to end our qualifying campaign on a positive note. This is a process, our task is to find the right answers. I am pleased that Toni Kroos, Leon Goretzka and Matthias Ginter are back. They are the kind of players who bring the team some stability. We are well-prepared.
...number games: We’re clear about our situation: We know that Northern Ireland still have a chance, but that hasn’t been an issue for us. We’re not interested in Northern Ireland, we have to make our own steps. We want all three points on Saturday and we’ll see where that leaves us.
...the line-up: Manuel Neuer will play against Belarus tomorrow, Marc-André ter Stegen will start against Northern Ireland. We will play with two centre-backs, as we expect Belarus to play with a lone-striker. Matthias Ginter will also definitely be playing. He may have just recovered from injury, but he has played well for Gladbach and when he’s been with us he’s always done his job very, very well. Jonathan Tah picked up a minor injury on Tuesday and will return to training today – I’d first like to see him and Niklas Stark train tonight. Stark has not trained for five days, so won’t be considered for the starting eleven tomorrow. Tah actually has a few good games behind him, so a two-day absence from training won’t set him back too much. In midfield, I will definitely start with Joshua Kimmich, Ilkay Gündogan and Toni Kroos, Serge Gnabry up front. As for the other positions, we’ll wait and see. Timo Werner is in good form, Julian Brandt has improved a lot recently and has taken a step in the right direction. How exactly we set up I will obviously decide closer to the time.
...Germany’s role as favourites against Belarus: It wasn’t so easy for us in Belarus, they’ve got a lot of good footballers in their ranks. Since changing head coach after our last game against them, they’ve become even more defensively organised and well-structured. This kind of resistance takes some beating. If we play to all of our strengths, however, and concentrate on the job, we will win this game.
...the mood in the dressing room: I’ve been impressed with things in this regard both on and off the pitch. The atmosphere is very, very good. You can sense a high level of discipline, the players are committed and very ambitious, they are desperate to get to keep improving for the EUROS. At the same time, they are relaxed, because they all get along very well. The energy in the team is wholly positive. Older players like Manuel Neuer, Toni Kroos and Ilkay Gündogan make time for the younger players who are new to the team. The team wants to achieve something, and you can sense that.
...expectations for the EUROS: It’s hard to predict how a tournament like this will unfold. At the moment we have a very talented, ambitious, hungry squad with a lot of opportunities – comparable to the team we had at the 2010 World Cup. We won’t go into the tournament as one of the favourites – several players would have to be further along in their careers for that, but a lot of things are possible at tournaments, and we’re working with that. The team is full of quality, the lads are really good, we’re set up well, but to compete for a title is incredibly difficult.
...tactical changes: Obviously there are certain things that we’ve changed. We have new challenges and new ideas for our own game. We have to differentiate between games in our qualifying group and games against renowned opponents. We’ve often enjoyed a lot of ball possession, which we won’t have to the same extent against other teams. For years, we had become accustomed to each other, the combination football was habitual. Now, winning the ball back and our transition play are the topics of priority – as it was against Netherlands and France. Our focus is not just on possession, we can’t expect this team to play their own game for the whole 90 minutes.
...a possible Niklas Süle return: I’ve no idea how it will be in five or six months’ time. The most important thing is that he gets back to 100 percent fitness and doesn’t carry any traces of the injury with him. An injury like this is a traumatic experience – you have to start feeling safe in your fifty-fifty challenges again. Nobody knows how he will be and we should not put any pressure on him.
…his international career: It’s a process. I first started playing at a young age and had to take a number of steps. I had a spell away, but then got back into the squad for the 2017 Confederations Cup. Since then, my development has been going in the right direction and I want this to continue. Things are going well with my club and I want to take the next steps with my nation. I want to carry on improving – on and off the pitch.
…the home game in Mönchengladbach: I’m looking forward to playing my first home game at my club’s home in Mönchengladbach for Germany. It will be a special feeling for me. We want to dominate the game and win convincingly. We saw in Belarus that they are dangerous from set pieces and can attack quickly on the break, so we will have to be wary of those things. We will have a lot of the ball and will have to put a lot in to the game. I hope that we don’t give them many chances and take our own ones.
…being underestimated: I’m actually used to it. People in Freiburg didn’t believe I could become a Bundesliga player. Nothing came easy for me; I had to work for everything. Many people in Dortmund also felt that I wasn’t ready at that time. I just focus on what comes from people inside the club, not outsiders. It’s great that the odd person here or there is recognising me now. I always wanted to be noticed for my performances, not for my off-field antics.
…the hierarchy within the team: We have gained a lot of younger players after the World Cup. I want to try and take more responsibility and I’ve noticed how much I enjoy doing so. I think things are going well for both my club and country.