Germany celebrates turnaround as confidence grows before hosting Euro 2024

AP , Wednesday 27 Mar 2024

What a difference a game makes.

Thomas Muller
Germany s Thomas Muller, left, and Germany s Toni Kroos smile after the international friendly soccer match between Germany and Netherlands at the Deutsche Bank Park in Frankfurt, Germany on Tuesday, March 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)


The pessimism and frustration shrouding Germany’s soccer team ahead this summer’s European Championship has been lifted and replaced by confidence that the host can now win the tournament.

All it took was a win over France for the Germans to cast aside their doubts.

“Everything fits together,” former Germany great Lothar Matthäus said after the France game, which was followed up by a 2-1 win over the Netherlands on Tuesday. “The team not only can be European champion, it must be European champion!”

It’s a remarkable turnaround for a team that had lost its previous games against Austria and Turkey in November, and which had only two wins from its previous 10 matches before beating France 2-0 in Lyon on Saturday.

“Something has come out of the last week that wasn’t there before,” said Toni Kroos, who came out of international retirement to rejoin the team for Euro 2024. “There’s a confidence in our actions and I hope we take that with us toward the tournament because then we can be confident of always doing well.”

Germany needed to dig deep to beat the Dutch in Frankfurt after Joey Veerman’s fourth-minute goal for the visitors, but goals from Maximilian Mittelstädt and Niclas Füllkrug consolidated the team’s new-found bullishness and rewarded coach Julian Nagelsmann for some brave calls in squad selection.

Nagelsmann had called up six new faces and coaxed the 34-year-old Kroos back from retirement.

The Real Madrid star’s return had arguably had the greatest impact because of his leadership qualities and a calm composure that helped settle the players around him. Kroos began by setting up for Germany’s fastest ever goal after just seven seconds in the win in France, then delivered both corners that led to the goals against the Netherlands.

“I know that the team is coming from a really tough time,” Kroos said. “What’s good is that few took that baggage with them, that it was left behind through the relatively radical changes and you could see that.”

Kroos’ return allowed İlkay Gündoğan to push further forward, Wirtz and fellow youngster Jamal Musiala starred on the wings, and in-form Arsenal forward Kai Havertz started up front. Bayer Leverkusen’s tough-tackling Robert Andrich made his second and third Germany appearances beside Kroos in midfield.

Nagelsmann named the same starting lineup for the Netherlands as he had for France, and – barring injuries – it will not change much from the team that will start Euro 2024 against Scotland in Munich on June 14.

“The spirit of the team is very good. It’s a good mix,” Nagelsmann said. “I think we’ve found a good mix of players who can take on the role of not playing and still give their all when they come in.”

Of the new faces, three were from Stuttgart, which is playing some of the best soccer in the Bundesliga this season. Mittelstädt, the Stuttgart left back, made his Germany debut against France and starred in both games. A year ago, he was fighting relegation with Hertha Berlin.

“Everyone said, he hasn’t played any international game, maybe it’s too early,” Nagelsmann said of Mittelstädt. “He’s a very good player, a lot of ambition, a lot of power and also a top guy. He’s good for us.”

Nagelsmann made a point of selecting in-form players for their confidence, while omitting the likes of Bayern Munich midfielder Leon Goretzka and a host of Borussia Dortmund players.

Nagelsmann paid tribute to Leipzig defenders David Raum and Benjamin Henrichs for their impact as substitutes, as well as Pascal Gross in midfield, while Füllkrug, another substitute, was the one who scored the winner against the Netherlands.

All of the players, whether starters and substitutes, displayed a bite and commitment that had been lacking in previous Germany performances. Antonio Rüdiger and Jonathan Tah formed a formidable partnership in central defense, while Wirtz and Musiala in particular provided moments of inspiration.

“I think football is always about confirming things. A one-hit wonder is always possible,” Nagelsmann said before Tuesday’s match. “In the end it’s about confirming the path that we’re on. And I also said before I don’t want to be infected by this hysteria. But I’m also not one to put the brakes on euphoria.”

Nagelsmann was only given a contract through Euro 2024 after he was appointed successor to the fired Hansi Flick in September, but he’s likely to have it extended before the tournament starts.

Germany next faces Ukraine and Greece for its final tournament warmups before its opening game against Scotland in Munich on June 14. Nagelsmann’s team then plays Hungary in Stuttgart on June 19 and Switzerland in Frankfurt on June 23.

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