Germany find the right mix with Euro 2024 on the horizon

AFP , Wednesday 27 Mar 2024

With two wins out of two against top-class opposition, Euro 2024 hosts Germany look to have found the right balance under coach Julian Nagelsmann with the tournament on the horizon.

The official logo for the UEFA EURO 2024

Having failed to make it past the last 16 of a major tournament since 2016, successive wins in the space of four days over France and the Netherlands have propelled Germany back into contention.

Nagelsmann reshuffled his squad ahead of the March friendlies, leaving out big names Leon Goretzka, Serge Gnabry, Emre Can and Mats Hummels.

Instead, he selected a mix of young talents and unheralded debutants, alongside a few experienced heads.

Days after a dominant 2-0 win over France in Lyon, Germany came from a goal down inside four minutes to beat the Dutch 2-1.

Other than securing two wins in a row for the first time since 2021, Germany demonstrated the cohesion, impetus and desire which had been sorely lacking.

- 'A good mix' -

Nagelsmann said as much after beating the Dutch, telling reporters the three-time European champions had "found a good mix" less than three months out from the first match against Scotland in Munich on June 14.

"The spirit in the team is good. Everyone has their role, even those who did not play, when they returned they contributed," the 36-year-old manager said.

Unlike recent Germany squads which leant heavily on players from Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, Nagelsmann chose form over reputation in his 26-man squad.

Only two Bayern players made the starting XI on Tuesday, while just one from Dortmund was in the squad.

Instead, Nagelsmann chose in-form players from Xabi Alonso's league leaders Bayer Leverkusen and surprise package Stuttgart, who sit in third place having narrowly avoided relegation last campaign.

Both games confirmed Nagelsmann made the right call, with strong performances coming across the squad's spectrum of age and experience.

In addition to the masterful return of veteran midfielder Toni Kroos, Saturday's win over France was fuelled by Germany's youthful forward line of Florian Wirtz, Kai Havertz and Jamal Musiala -- who have a collective age of just 65.

On Tuesday, with the scores locked at 1-1 and just over 15 minutes remaining, Nagelsmann took off Havertz and Wirtz, turning to veterans Thomas Mueller and Niclas Fuellkrug -- who boast the same collective age.

Fuellkrug linked well with Musiala before heading in the winner from a Kroos corner.

As a result, Nagelsmann seems to have settled on his squad for the summer's tournament, ruling out "big changes."

"The door is open for everyone.

"We won't trade in five or ten new players in the summer, that's for sure. Maybe one or two if someone gets injured."

- 'Great football nation' -

Mueller, one of three 2014 World Cup winners in the squad, welcomed the results but was most impressed by the "style and manner" of the performances.

"We want to build on it. Against France we were more dynamic, today we dug in as both teams defended deeper.

"What was really nice was that we confirmed that we can actually react the potential that this great football nation has."

Musiala, who was just 11 when Mueller won the World Cup in Brazil, said Germany were finally having fun again.

"Everyone had fun. You can feel it, from day to day, the vibes are really good."

Speaking like an elder statesman, Musiala said: "It takes time to get past the ups and downs.

"I don't want to say we're out of the woods yet. We need to stay in our flow, stay healthy and show our best -- and maybe we'll have something to show for it in the end."

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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