Ominously for the rest of the Euro 2016 contenders, Germany coach Joachim Loew reported good news on the injury front ahead of the world champion’s opening game against Ukraine.
Mats Hummels was well on his way to recovering from a calf injury sustained in the German Cup final and captain Bastian Schweinsteiger is sure to ”play his part in the tournament at some stage,” Loew said on the eve of Sunday’s Group C game.
Germany has had to cope with a number of notable absences through injury – Ilkay Gundogan, Marco Reus and Antonio Ruediger have all been ruled out – but Loew says he has the players to compensate.
”The excitement is building for all of us by the hour. After three weeks, you’re really happy when the starting shot is fired,” Loew said.
Germany is aiming for a record fourth European title, two years after winning the World Cup in Rio de Janeiro with much the same team.
Loew said he wasn’t feeling any pressure, despite the weight of a nation’s expectations going into his fifth major tournament in charge.
”I’m more looking forward to it than feeling pressure. Germany always has pressure, the same in 2012 as now, the expectations are high but we can deal with them. Pressure is no issue,” Loew said. ”We have enough experienced players.”
Schweinsteiger isn’t yet fit enough for 90 minutes, meaning someone else will captain the side on Sunday. Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is the most likely candidate.
”There are four or five players who are important voices in the team, Manuel Neuer, (Sami) Khedira, Hummels, (Jerome) Boateng, (Toni) Kroos, and others too, Thomas Mueller. They all have the same worth, so for me it doesn’t play any role who replaces Bastian Schweinsteiger,” Loew said.
Ukraine only conceded four goals in qualifying from a group containing defending champion Spain yet Loew appeared supremely confident his own side was well-prepared to make a good start.
”Ukraine has a team whose strengths are physical. They’re a dynamic team that can maintain a high tempo for 90 minutes. They have players, especially out wide, that are very dangerous on the counter,” Loew said.
”That was our take on Ukraine and I think we’ve analyzed them very well.
We spoke about several things, where we’d find solutions, but in the end I said to the team we have to bring our own game to the fore, do what we can do well, and then we’re in a position to beat Ukraine. ”
Loew said the ”so-called smaller teams” were improving all the time and making it harder for the established powers to enforce their game, as Romania showed in a 2-1 defeat against France in the tournament opener on Friday.
”We know that it will be difficult in the beginning, especially in the opening round,” Loew said. ”I’ll be really happy when it starts, though.”