Matthias Ginter has recently been asked what he actually thinks that the European football championship starts so late for him and the German national team. This Friday, Italy and Turkey will face each other in the opening game of the European Championship in Rome; But the Germans are – together with their opening opponent France of course – the last team to intervene in this pan-European tournament. They still have to wait until Tuesday for their first assignment.
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The question to Ginter, the central defender of the national team, was a typical journalist question. At least one could think so. Gamers are unlikely to have such thoughts. It starts when it starts. But apparently that’s not the case. “It’s a little difficult to keep the anticipation going,” Ginter replied. “Because of course you want to start the tournament as soon as possible.”
Whereby: Maybe it’s not that bad that the Germans and their coach Joachim Löw have a few more days before they get going. The preparation for the EM was not particularly long. In addition, important players such as Toni Kroos, who had Covid-19, or the Champions League finalists around Ilkay Gündogan and Antonio Rüdiger entered training late.
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And finally there are a few content-related topics to work on. “We have made a step forward”, said national coach Löw about the learning progress of his team at the end of the training camp in Seefeld. “That was the multiplication table.” However, the more complicated calculations, the entire offensive game for example, have not yet been on the schedule.
It is therefore difficult to make reliable predictions about the strength of the German national team and their prospects of winning the European Championship for the fourth time after 1972, 1980 and 1996. It is only reliable that there is a certain skepticism among the people. Even Löw said when his squad was nominated “that we are not among the absolute favorites at this tournament”. Favorites are France, Belgium, maybe England and Spain.
Doubts have often accompanied the national team to major tournaments. They were particularly big before the World Championships in 2002 and 2006. In the end it was second and third. But the skepticism is not entirely out of thin air. The past few months are still having an effect: the depressing 6-0 win against Spain last November, for example. Or the embarrassing 1: 2 against North Macedonia, a country that some football fans probably didn’t even know existed.
“We are not as bad as we seem,” says Lothar Matthäus, Germany’s record international player and omnipresent expert on many channels at a media round of his partner Interwetten. “We just performed badly.” For fun, Matthäus played through the preliminary round matches of the German team – in what is believed to be the strongest of all six groups of four. Löw and his team will first face world champions France (June 15), then defending champions Portugal (June 19) and finally Hungary (June 24). First come in slowly and then keep looking, this time that’s not the right approach to the tournament.
It depends on the mood, “and the mood is good”
If Matthäus has guessed correctly, the Germans will end up in their group behind France and Portugal, but still go one round as one of the four best third-placed group. Yes, he thinks that the quality of the team “should actually make it to the semi-finals”. Of course you could say: Wow, such a strong group. But the French and Portuguese would have to think the same way. “We shouldn’t make ourselves smaller than we are,” says Matthew. Löw has a squad available that is “good, who is ready, who also has quality”. It now depends on the atmosphere in the team, “and the atmosphere is good”.
At least that’s what the national team say at every opportunity. No comparison to 2018, when the Germans set out for the World Cup in Russia as defending champions and returned home defeated after the preliminary round. “In 2018 the mood was already strained, there was a certain heaviness on the team,” says Löw. The Erdogan affair preoccupied the team more than they admitted – in addition to all the sporting problems and internal friction between established players and challengers, which the national coach was not moderated away.
Now the basic feeling is different. “The mood is extremely energetic. The boys get along, ”says Löw. “It’s also very communicative.” He is that too: clear in his ideas; clear in his address, focused on the goal of completing his 15-year term with a second major title. For Löw, this tournament is ultimately also about his image in history, even if he would probably always deny that this is important to him in any way.
“The team has a move forward, the team is happy again,” says Lothar Matthäus. On Monday, in the last test match before the European Championship, this was clearly evident. The Germans combined fluently and conclusively, they created many chances and scored seven goals. But the only opponent was Latvia, ranked 138th in the world, between Tanzania and Myanmar. The placement was clearly not an oversight.
Regardless of the strength or weakness of the opponent: “When things work, it gives a good feeling,” said national coach Löw after the 7-1 win against the Latvians. “But it shouldn’t lead us to believe that everything is done now. The work is only just beginning. ”He still has a few days.