Bastian Schweinsteiger’s broad smile was exactly what Joachim Loew has been dreaming of in advance of Germany’s last warm-up match against Hungary in Gelsenkirchen this Saturday evening.
After weeks full of bad news regarding the fitness levels of several of his key figures, it was German team captain Schweinsteiger who made Loew happy. “I’m on a good path,” said the Manchester United midfielder when announcing plans to play “20 to 30 minutes” in the friendly.
Nevertheless the final decision will be made shortly before kick-off. Schweinsteiger’s message looks like a perfect start for Loew into the hot phase leading up to Euro 2016 as the 56-year old German head coach is desperate to reanimate the team-spirit which helped Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
At the same time Schweinsteiger’s quick recovery comes as a surprise as rumors were indicating the 31-year old could be sidelined for longer and might even miss Germany’s curtain raiser against Ukraine on June 12.
Schweinsteiger is a key figure in Loew’s plans to win the first European title for Germany after 20 years. For Loew, it is vital to create a similar team-spirit to the one his team managed in Brazil.
Despite his poor season for Manchester, Schweinsteiger stands for leadership and experience in Loew’s squad. “The team knows they can rely on Bastian’s experience and loyalty, the team follows his decisions and commands,” Loew said.
Lately Schweinsteiger had been sidelined for more than two months. “I still need to find my rhythm, but I’ve already had four full training sessions with the team. In a short while I will be ready for a full 90 minutes. There was not one single lost day. I can say: Before the 2014 World Cup, my situation was been worse.”
Loew has been criticized for Schweinsteiger’s nomination as well picking Lukas Podolski (Galatasaray Istanbul). Podolski, who played his last game for Germany over the full 90 minutes in 2014, was derided as bring not much more than a “mascot” for the team by some of the German media. Both would block two places in the squad that would be needed for more sensible alternatives.
Germany’s drop in motivation right after the World Cup has been closely watched by Loew. His team went through what you can hardly call a satisfying qualification. In the end, the team managed to qualify but jeopardized the myth of it being unbeatable.
“We know we have a very good team, that is capable of extraordinary performances. Germany has proved that in many tournaments. At the same time I know we are not unbeatable,” said Loew recently.
Loew has emphasized several times “that every major tournament requires a new team and a new spirit. Every tournament is a new beginning,” the German head-coach said, meaning: For 2016 Euro a re-start is inevitable even for a world champion. “The team counts more than every single player,” Loew said. It looks as if his 2016 tournament guide was not written for his leader Schweinsteiger.
While defender Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund), who will join Bayern Munich next season, still needs time to recover, Loew will use the last match against Hungary for further testing. Keeper number one, Manuel Neuer is expected to return to the staring eleven.
Loew’s defense against the 2016 European Championship participant Hungary will be an experimental one as Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich), Shkodran Mustafi (FC Valencia), Antonio Ruediger (AS Rom), Jonas Hector (1. FC Cologne) are expected to start.
Hummels said he will possibly be fit for the second group match against Poland on June 16 but not before. “If I miss the first and maybe the second group match there are still several to go for us,” Hummels said.
Sami Khedira (Juventus Turin) and Toni Kroos (Real Madrid) will play in central midfield while Thomas Mueller, Mario Goetze (both Bayern Munich) and Julian Draxler (VfL Wolfsburg) stand for the attacking section. Mario Gomez (Besiktas Istanbul) will be up front.
As Germany intends to please its fans in their last match on German soil after a 3-1 loss against Slovakia last week, defender Jerome Boateng has warned his team mates and demanding they improve the team’s performance.
After the retirements of Philipp Lahm, Per Mertesacker and Miroslav Klose, Loew has re-structured his squad with new faces such as Kimmich (Bayern Munich), Leroy Sane (FC Schake 04) and Julian Weigl (Borussia Dortmund).
“Considering that we have to improve in dead ball situations. It is clear that this squad hasn’t played together much and therefore lots of little things are not working as well as they should,” Boateng said. “We have to use the last days before the start of the tournament to become a well-oiled machine.”