Manuel Neuer challenges Germany team-mates to ‘land a surprise’ in their Euro 2020 opener against world champions France… with Antonio Rudiger revealing they are ready to be ‘a little bit dirty’ to combat rivals’ warring strikers
It was rather generous of France to provide a semblance of normality in the build-up to a major tournament, with sparring team-mates disagreeing over who should pass to who after their final friendly.
There was something comforting about the feud between Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud that now — publicly at least — appears to have cooled if not quite extinguished.
If that offered the warm sense of familiarity, hearing a Germany captain play down their chances certainly did not. ‘We want to show personality and character,’ Manuel Neuer said. ‘We hope to land a surprise against a world-class team.’
Feuds between French team-mates has offered a welcome semblance of normality at the Euros
Manuel Neuer played down Germany’s chances though as he looked ahead to their opener
Neuer would later check back on himself, stating Germany are not exactly underdogs ahead of Euro 2020’s first truly tantalising fixture on Tuesday night, but it did present a little window into the psyche of a nation.
Manager Joachim Low is on his way out after 15 years in charge, at the end of a season that has seen a 6-0 shellacking in Spain and a shock home defeat by North Macedonia in their last competitive fixture.
Their squad remains enviable but the hangover from the World Cup in Russia has taken more than a few Beroccas to shake.
Low instigated a new direction after that group stage exit yet has since been forced to recall Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels. Until this month, neither had played for their country since November 2018.
Joachim Low has recalled Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels after more than two years away
‘We have to pay the fans back,’ Neuer said. ‘France are top-class. We’re aware we need stability. We have to defend with passion. We’ll try to be courageous.’
Low’s final team talk will be devoted to the emotion of the occasion. It will lean on the fact that 14,000 supporters will be inside Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena.
‘It’s special to start against the reigning world champion,’ Low said. ‘It’s unusual to have a big opener like this. France’s talent is obvious but we have lots in our team, a good balance, a good mix in attack.
‘Not everything has been easy over the last two years for us, there have been difficult times. We’ve had a lot of meetings. You can feel in training that things are developing.
‘We’ve made good progress. We’re hungry and want success. This makes me confident and allows me to sleep well at night.’
The Germany manager is on his way out of the job after 15 years in charge of the national side
He could be forgiven for a little restlessness ahead of meeting Messrs Mbappe, Griezmann and Benzema. Mbappe revealed over the weekend that he would have preferred Giroud to have aired misgivings in the dressing room rather than down a camera lens, but Hugo Lloris maintained that the squabble is unlikely to derail such a potent goalscoring machine.
‘To be honest with you, it made a lot more noise outside than inside,’ the goalkeeper claimed. ‘Olivier and Kylian had a discussion the day after the game but there is nothing abnormal. There was a small disagreement, but these things happen in a dressing room. It hasn’t harmed the team at all.’
Antonio Rudiger, a growing leader inside Germany’s camp, has suggested they will combat the fearsome French forwards with physicality.
Germany will operate ‘a little bit dirty,’ said Rudiger, ‘not always playing nice football’.
But Didier Deschamps believes that works both ways as they prepare to face three of Muller, Timo Werner, Leroy Sane or Serge Gnabry. ‘At this level, you get lots of duels,’ said the France manager. ‘Everyone throws everything at these games. Tomorrow will be no different.’
Antonio Rudiger has urged his side to do whatever it takes to come out on top on Tuesday