Neuer: We'll pull in the same direction
Joachim Löw has a tough puzzle to solve. Will Bastian Schweinsteiger, who completed an individual session on Tuesday, be available for selection? Who deputises for Mats Hummels, serving a one-match ban, and who steps in for the injured Sami Khedira? Will Mario Götze replace Mario Gomez, who is also sidelined with injury? “I'll field new players, I fully trust all my lads. They're all at a very, very high level,” the Germany head coach insisted before the semi-final encounter with hosts France in Marseille on Thursday at 21.00 CET.
Manuel Neuer and Thomas Müller do not have to worry about their places in the starting line-up. The two Bayern pros answered journalists' questions at a press conference on Tuesday, and both exuded confidence. “France didn't make it to the semi-finals by luck. We have respect,” said Müller. But the world champion is not afraid of Les Bleus and their impressive attacking unit: “I'm confident that we'll find solutions.”
“It's normal that they're confident,” Neuer added before the tough challenge against the side who boast the most goals at the tournament so far, “but we know we're having a very good tournament especially in terms of our defence. We're in a good position.” Müller, who tries to stifle opponents' attacks in their own half by pressing high up the field, agreed: “Once again, we have to defend well as a team so they're unable to demonstrate their qualities.”
France 'slight favourites'
Bayern winger Kingsley Coman is likely to come on in the second half as in the last few matches. The well-tried triumvirate featuring Antoine Griezmann, who boasts four EURO goals, and Olivier Giroud und Dimitri Payet, who have scored three each so far, will probably form the attacking unit. “We have to focus on their entire forward line,” Neuer said, cautioning against turning attention to only one of the players. “We have to maintain our positions, keep up our defensive discipline and be highly alert to avoid mistakes.”
With Hummels, Khedira, Gomez and potentially Schweinsteiger on the sidelines, the task is not going to be easier. “The absences are bitter for us as a team, but we have to compensate for them,” commented Müller, who focused on the positive aspects of the situation: “I see it as a chance for the players who come into the team now. Our quality won't drop.”
France are “slight favourites” according to Germany team manager Oliver Bierhoff. “They didn't have to play 120 minutes and they're at home, whereas we're struggling with some injuries,” commented the scorer of the winning goal in the EURO 1996 final. “Despite everything we aren't too decimated, which boosts our certainty of course. We all have reason to be confident before the match.” Neuer added: “We'll have a plan and pull in the same direction.”