presented by
Hopes for Boateng

Neuer & Co ‘well prepared' for Slovakia task

Manuel Neuer, Joshua Kimmich & Co clearly made the most of having Thursday off but the Germany stars have now turned their full focus to Sunday’s EURO 2016 Round of 16 meeting with Slovakia in Lille. “We’re into the knockout stages now. Anything can happen in a one-off match,” warned Neuer: “We mustn’t underestimate any opponent.”

Germany are unlikely to make that error following a 3-1 friendly defeat to the Slovaks on a stormy night in Augsburg four weeks ago, although the meeting in France will be “a totally different game,” Neuer advised. “We’re well prepared and our plan is to settle it in our favour as early as possible,” the keeper declared, “we’re aiming for the quarter-finals!”

Jérôme Boateng missed Friday’s squad training programme with muscular problems and instead completed an individual session at the Évian training base, working out on the ergometer and going for a run. The Munich star aims to rejoin his team-mates for Saturday’s pre-match session. “We’re all aware of his quality. We hope he can play,” Neuer said.

‘We’ve invested a lot’

Boateng would certainly provide great reassurance for the world champions against the powerful Slovak attack and cunning goal poacher Marek Hamsik, who netted in Augsburg and turned in a gala display in his country’s 2-1 group stage victory over Russia. “But we mustn’t focus all our attention on just the one player. We have to control the forward line as a whole,” Neuer insisted. “We’ve invested a lot in defending well, and we’re aiming to keep it going.”

For their part, the East Europeans are revelling in their role as underdogs. “We’ve been together for more than ten years and we’ve shown we can be outstanding at times,” stated captain Martin Skrtel of Liverpool. “Our friendship makes us strong.” Former Bundesliga 2 striker Adam Nemec said: “The Germans have yet to concede a goal at the tournament. It’s high time they did!”