After another topsy-turvy season, Germany close things off with a Euro 2020 double header that has a distinctly post-Soviet feel. First up is Belarus on 8th June, followed by Estonia in Mainz two days later. Belarus are a new addition to the Nationalmannschaft’s competitive record, while the last meaningful meeting with Estonia was before the Second World War.
After a rough start to the season that saw the team dumped out of the inaugural Europa Nations League without a win, 2019 has been far more encouraging. Fearing the worst ahead of their return to the Netherlands for their opening Euro 2020 qualifier, Joachin Löw’s men made the short journey back home with three deserved points after an entertaining 3-2 victory in Amsterdam.
For these final two matches, the team will have to play without their coach on the sidelines. Following an accident in the gym and a short spell in hospital, the Nationaltrainer is taking a little time out with assistant Marcus Sorg taking the reigns. The last time Löw was not in the dugout was at Euro 2008, when his altercation with Austrian counterpart Josef Hickersberger resulted in his being banned for the quarter-final against Portugal.
Germany travel to Borisov to meet Belarus, in what is the first competitive meeting at senior level between the two countries. In is in fact only the second meeting in all, the first producing a 2-2 draw in Kaiserslautern in May 2008.
The Saturday evening encounter is also Germany’s 100th European Championship qualifier, with the previous 99 matches producing 71 wins, 19 draws and 9 defeats.
One has to trawl back to 1939 to find the last meeting with Estonia, a 2-0 friendly win in Tallinn. Along with another friendly which saw Sepp Herberger’s side cruise to a 5-0 victory in Stettin in September 1935, there has been one competitive clash between the two countries. On 28th September 1937 the Nationalmannschaft eased to a 4-1 victory in a World Cup qualifier in Königsberg.
The following dark years would see both the small Baltic state and the East Prussian port city absorbed into the Soviet Union. While the upcoming meeting will be Germany’s fourth against the Estonians, it is the first against the modern country that gained independence from the USSR in 1991.
With senior pro Toni Kroos rested, nobody in the 22-man squad will be wearing the number eight shirt. In goal, the injured Marc-André ter Stegen is replaced by Arsenal’s Bernd Leno, while in the defensive unit experienced left-back Jonas Hector – a top-flight player again after 1. FC Köln’s return to the Bundesliga – comes in for the injured Antonio Rüdiger.
Among the ten midfielders and attackers, Julian Draxler returns in place of Maxi Eggestein. Back in the squad after another inconsistent season in France with PSG, the 25-year-old midfielder is just one cap short of the half century mark.
With three points safely in the bank after the opening win against the Dutch, German fans will be expecting nothing less than a full house against two very beatable opponents as they look to take control of the group. But given the team’s form over the past two seasons, nothing can be taken for granted.
Bernd Leno (Arsenal FC, 6/0)
Manuel Neuer (FC Bayern München, 86/0)
Kevin Trapp (Eintracht Frankfurt, 3/0)
Matthias Ginter (Borussia Mönchengladbach, 24/0)
Marcel Halstenberg (RB Leipzig, 2/0)
Jonas Hector (1. FC Köln, 42/3)
Thilo Kehrer (Paris Saint-Germain, 6/0)
Lukas Klostermann (RB Leipzig, 1/0)
Nico Schulz (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, 6/2)
Niklas Stark (Hertha BSC, 0/0)
Niklas Süle (FC Bayern München, 18/1)
Jonathan Tah (Bayer 04 Leverkusen, 5/0)
Julian Brandt (Bayer 04 Leverkusen, 24/2)
Julian Draxler (Paris Saint-Germain, 49/6)
Serge Gnabry (FC Bayern München, 6/5)
Leon Goretzka (FC Bayern München, 21/7)
İlkay Gündoğan (Manchester City, 31/4)
Kai Havertz (Bayer 04 Leverkusen, 3/0)
Joshua Kimmich (FC Bayern München, 40/3)
Marco Reus (BV 09 Borussia Dortmund, 39/10)
Leroy Sané (Manchester City, 19/3)
Timo Werner (RB Leipzig, 24/9)