Time for something a little different today, as part of the gradual buildup towards the World Cup. We now have less than two weeks until things kick off in Russia, and sixteen days before Germany get their campaign underway. Today we catch up with the team, through the wonderful media prism that is Twitter.
Ahead of the first warmup fixture against Austria in Klagenfurt, Jogi Löw and his 27-man squad have been training in Eppan in the South Tyrol. While I prefer to concern myself with the important issues, it is hard to avoid some of the click bait out there. For some busybodies in the media, keeping an eye on a week of training sessions is not quite enough.
Neuer ready to go
First, some proper team news. After months of speculation concerning his fitness, it appears that Manuel Neuer is all set to start between the sticks in Russia. The FC Bayern ‘keeper has been out of action since September and has not played for the Mannschaft for over a year, but everything has gone to plan so far.
The senior squad played a couple of gentle short-form warmups against the Under-20 team, notching up a 7-1 win and a slightly tighter 2-0 result. The closeness of the second match had a lot to do with Neuer, who played in goal alongside the youngsters.
A taste of what we can look forward to tomorrow… #NeuerTheWall 🚫
— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) June 1, 2018
“Neuer die Mauer” is back. Without exaggerating (too much) we can say that very few goalkeepers would have been able to pull off this sort of save. There are no bad feelings on the part of the bumped-down Marc-André ter Stegen either.
Oliver Bierhoff: "Manuel Neuer will be number 1 if he goes to the World Cup, it's looking so good for him. Therefore ter Stegen will be number 2. Marc-André is taking the whole situation with great sportmanship" pic.twitter.com/ZxZx22LUFN
— Bayern & Die Mannschaft (@eMiaSanMia) May 31, 2018
There can be no buildup to a major tournament with a discussion about Mesut Özil, who has been in the news for plenty of non-footballing reasons recently. First, there was the criticism from former Arsenal centre-back and now pundit Martin Keown. Then, the utterly foolish publicity stunt involving Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Now, Özil is back in the headlines for not showing the right level of commitment on the training ground.
— Alejo Johnson (@alejojohnson) May 31, 2018
Özil could have thought a little about meeting Erdoğan. I have often had a go at his staring into space during the singing of the national anthem. But to suggest that he is slacking off in training is patently absurd.
Journalists can be excused for not knowing what is really happening behind the scenes. They can be forgiven for mistranslating or misinterpreting statements. But Mesut Özil is not “lazy”. He is simply Mesut Özil. He is also working hard to overcome a back injury.
Löw may be unhappy. Or not. Even if the coach is unhappy – or not – with Özil, it has nothing to do with the player’s level of commitment on the training ground. The discussion concerns how, and if, he might be able to work through his injury. In this context, assistant coach Thomas Schneider’s comments are completely unambiguous.
The likes of Martin Keown will never understand a player like Özil. The guy plays in the same languid manner regardless. He is not there to defend, execute bone-crunching tackles or chase down every ball. He is there to provide those rarely-seen moments of magic. To achieve this, the rest of the team need to work with him.
There are days when Özil is simply magical, and there are days when he appears to be floating around in some foggy ether. The reality is that when you study the statistics and the heat maps, his work rate never changes. He will be working just as hard, and running just as far.
Training ground shenanigans
As the media continue to pluck at straws in search of a story, we get the drama of Joshua Kimmich and Antonio Rüdiger having a difference of opinion on the training ground. No fisticuffs, nothing untoward, just one of those heated training ground moments.
— Indy Football (@IndyFootball) May 30, 2018
Kimmich and Rüdiger go head to head, probably following a harsh challenge. Words are exchanged. Miroslav Klose intervenes. Players calm down. No big deal. Rüdiger is a big guy. He knows how to handle himself. Kimmich is a terrier, who knows how to handle himself too. We just need to wind back a year or so ago to the moment Kimmich took on FC Bayern München team mate Arturo Vidal in the the Confederations Cup.
Kimmich is a bit like Scrappy Doo. He is a feisty so and so, and gives it his all. Even on the training ground. He and Rüdiger are probably laughing it off right now.
Squad poster gaffe
The comedy was not just on the training ground. In what was slightly surreal moment, an image of what looked like the final squad of 23 players appeared on the DFB website. No big deal, except that there are still 27 to choose from at the moment. Oops.
Awkward moment for Germany.
A poster on the German FA website showing player names in sign language only has 23 players.
The four missing? Trapp, Tah, Rudy, Petersen.
— Jonathan Harding (@JonBloggs66) May 31, 2018
The interesting thing was that the 23 players on this poster looked very much like the 23 most pundits are expecting to see in Russia, when the official announcement is made on the 4th of this month. The missing faces: Kevin Trapp, Jonathan Tah, Sebastian Rudy and Nils Petersen.
Of course, it is probably all a coincidence. There was I thinking that Panini had got it right with their “selection” of Emre Can and Mario Götze, while omitting Marco Reus. Rudy is among the 18 stickers in their Russia 2018 album. Perhaps those wise folks in Modena know something we don’t.
Needless to say, team director Oliver Bierhoff was less than impressed.