ESPN senior Bundesliga commentator Derek Rae explains how the domestic league laid the foundations for Germany’s World Cup squad, and he looks forward to the series of fixtures that will close the club’s calendar year.
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We’ve known for a while that Thursday would be decision day for Die Nationalmannschaft manager Hansi Flick, but there were always heartwarming stories for some and unwelcome surprises for others.
In attack, Germany have been looking for a top-flight solution for several years, and Flick decided to pick two in-form players on opposite ends of the age spectrum who weren’t necessarily on the radar a few months ago.
At 29, Nicolas Fullkrug does not cut the figure of a glamorous modern day footballer, but has the gift in front of goal. This goes further than the 10 he has scored for Werder Bremen this season, with five of them coming in the final five minutes of matches, while three have been aerial type. Fullkrug may have no international experience, but he’s a seasoned professional, line leader, focal point and frankly the type of old-timer player Germany will need in certain situations at the Cup. of the world.
Like Fullkrug, 17 Youssoufa Moukoko wasn’t sure whether to make the squad at the start of the season, but the Borussia Dortmund starlet timed his form perfectly with a view to getting the nod from Flick. His sparkling brace in the 2-0 win over VfL Bochum last week boosted his cause and there were other great Bundesliga moments, such as the late winner of the revierderby and the crucial goal of putting Dortmund back in contention in the 2-2 draw with Bayern Munich.
It would take a philistine to gloss over the inclusion of Mario Gotze, the man who engraved his name in German football folklore with the aim of winning the 2014 World Cup final in Rio de Janeiro. Gotze went five years without playing for Germany, with health problems causing his first absences.
A spell in the Netherlands with PSV Eindhoven boosted his confidence, but the summer move to Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt is what really drove the 30-year-old. Frankfurt signed Gotze to help break down deep and defensive opponents, and Flick noted his quality as well as his ability to play many games in quick succession this term and praised his big personality.
Clearly, Marco Reus would have been named to the team had he been able to win his fitness-wise time trial. Reus was the unluckiest German top player of his generation, missing major tournaments in 2014, 2016, 2021 and now 2022.
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Flick also explained the Florian Wirtz situation clearly. The Bayer Leverkusen talent is only back in training after missing most of the year with a torn ACL, and he will be much better off staying with the Worker and prepare for the January restart. A decision of common sense because it would have been an act of madness to rush it.
Opinion is divided on the veteran defender Hummels rug. The 33-year-old is having a wonderful season at Dortmund but failed to qualify. Flick explained his reasons saying that the coaching staff generally believe in having an eye on the future. It should be kept in mind that Germany will host Euro 2024 and should be among the candidates to win it. Tournament experience for a young player could now pay big dividends later on.
Antonio Rudiger is the defensive leader, in Flick’s own words, and Germany has in Nico Schlotterbeck (BVB team-mate of Hummels) someone with pace and tenacity. Flick denied that Hummels’ tendency to offer blunt criticism on the back of the team’s poor performance had anything to do with it. It’s a big call, but Hummels has lost the rhythm and had to be the fifth-choice centre-back, and having such a high-ranking character with such low status doesn’t make sense.
There are a range of other good options in this position, although Southampton Armel Bella-Kotchap can be seen as a surprise and so is the inclusion of RB Leipzig Lucas Klostermann, who hasn’t played since matchday one due to injury. Klostermann’s versatility was the deciding factor here as the right-back remains a relative weak position for Germany. This Niklas Sule recently played there for BVB could also come in handy.
There were no clashes on the front of the guards, with Neuer manual and Marc-Andre ter Stegen joined by Frankfurt Kevin Trapp. Flick said that unlike other countries which have selected four goalkeepers, he believes that in this case three is enough.
If there’s one player who can be a wildcard for Germany, it’s Dortmund Karim Adeyemi. His ability to clip his left foot from the right flank, coupled with his pace and finishing ability, makes him, in Flick’s words, a “weapon”.
of Bayern Thomas Muller in his fourth World Cup will have a key role to play on and off the pitch, and although currently on the injured list, Flick will be hoping to have him on board for the pre-tournament friendly against Oman. Minus Muller, Germany rekordmeister Bayern cruised to a 6-1 win over Werder Bremen on Tuesday with Serge Gnabry the headline, scoring a hat-trick against one of his former clubs. Bayern are guaranteed to enter the winter break At the top of the table, Union Berlin twice lost their advantage against FC Augsburg and had to settle for a 2-2 draw.
Dortmund lost 2-0 at VfL Wolfsburg and have now been overtaken on goal difference by in-form Leipzig, who beat third-placed SC Freiburg 3-1. Frankfurt remain fourth after an attacking festival against TSG Hoffenheim with outstanding contributions from Gotze, Randal Kolo Muani and especially the irresistible Jesper Lindstrom.
The seemingly endless action will finally come to a halt on Sunday after three more days of Bundesliga action. Flick must hope, above all, that every member of his 26-member squad avoid injury this weekend.