Stuttgart (dpa) – Joachim Löw sees “even more important things right now” in view of the global corona pandemic. But the international restart after a forced break of 289 days is of course a special boost for the success-hungry national coach and his team.
“The players are very motivated and have a lot of attention,” said Löw before the second edition of the Nations League, with the classic against former world champions Spain.
With the kick-off on Thursday (8.45 p.m. / ZDF), coaches and national players have an eye on the EM, which has been postponed to the summer of 2021. “Next year’s tournament prevails, now we have to take the first steps,” said Löw in Stuttgart immediately after the greed of the European Championship.
Interim captain Toni Kroos, who has already won everything in addition to the continental title and wants to do everything for the European Championship success, immediately turned his attention to the coming year: “That is the main goal.” And the 2014 World Champion added: “Any game can be important for the European Championship.”
At the start of his 15th season as national coach, Löw still had “two hearts in one chest”, as the world champion coach himself admitted. On the one hand, his team is finally returning to competitive mode. On the other hand, Löw will have an unloved premiere in his 182nd game as DFB head coach. “As a coach I have never played a game without an audience,” said the 60-year-old. The start of the Nations League takes place all over Europe with ghost games. “Still, I am very motivated,” emphasized Löw.
For his team, it feels like at least the third restart after the total failed World Cup with the preliminary round in Russia 2018. First the national coach tried the deserved World Cup staff around Thomas Müller and Mats Hummels, then he sent the youngsters at night. Wild against Serge Gnabry in the square. And now after the longest international break in 50 years, Germany is aiming for the fourth European title with new faces like Robin Gosens and the returnees Leroy Sané and Niklas Süle.
The Munich Sané on the attack and Süle as head of a triple defense chain are again the first choice after healed cruciate ligament tears. Gosens of Atalanta Bergamo takes the position on the defensive left wing. After a good season, the 26-year-old “deserved the chance,” said Löw on Wednesday. On the right, Thilo Kehrer, who with Paris Saint-Germain in the final of the Champions League only failed in the final in Bayern, is used.
The fact that Löw does without important team pillars, such as the Champions League winners Manuel Neuer, Joshua Kimmich, Gnabry and Leon Goretzka from FC Bayern and Marcel Halstenberg and Lukas Klostermann from the semi-finalist RB Leipzig, fits into his EM plan on the area of load management.
The upheaval has already taken place: there are nine 2017 Confederation Cup winners in the current squad, but only three 2014 World Champions (Kroos, Julian Draxler, Matthias Ginter). Now it is a matter of inserting processes and automatisms. To consolidate the new structures, tests such as those against Spain and on Sunday in Switzerland as competitive games are particularly important for Löw. “The Nations League is a very good competition, the teams are at a very high level. That makes these games valuable, which is good for the development of our team”, emphasized the national coach.
“We now have a very young team,” said Timo Werner, who wants to become a top striker after moving to Chelsea. The ex-Leipzig explained the possible advantage: many players would already know each other from youth teams or former clubs, which is good for the team structure.
“Of course I’m always happy that we have the young team that needs time now, that needs games, that needs betting, that we can test and use them,” said Oliver Bierhoff. However, the national shift director is also aware of the impact of the ongoing corona pandemic and the resulting even more compressed schedule.
“It’s tiring, especially now in difficult times when people have different concerns,” Bierhoff said. Low thought for a long time about the classification of professional football during the Corona break. Also because he himself has experienced what Covid-19 can do in his circle of friends. The decision by the European Football Association (UEFA) that the international match would restart after a hiatus of almost ten months in all stadiums on the continent without spectators, met with understanding in the DFB circle. “It’s not only very difficult for the fans,” said Werner. “But it is better for everyone involved if you keep a certain distance.”
The desire for spectators to return to the stadium is still great. “We miss the fans incredibly. Something is missing, it doesn’t feel right,” said Bayern defender Süle. The German Football Association actually planned to allow at least 500 spectators into the Mercedes-Benz Arena.
Germany played the last game before the Corona break on November 19 of the previous year in the European Championship qualifier against Northern Ireland. There were 42,855 fans in the 6-1 victory in Frankfurt. All international matches scheduled for 2020 have so far been canceled, the EM has been postponed to summer 2021. “Nothing like this has ever happened”, said the national coach about the continuing special situation.