World Cup winner Boateng back in Germany team

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He’s back! Exactly 12 months after his 67th and last international appearance in the 2-0 win against Northern Ireland in Hanover, Jérôme Boateng is back in the national team fold. And coincidentally, his next appearance could come on Thursday in Belfast against the same country. “I’m pleased I can be here and I feel absolutely ready for it,” said the World Cup winner, who praised the friendly, familiar welcome he received on his return to the DFB squad.

Boateng is certainly not demanding to be picked, though. “I’ve always said I need a few weeks to get back to my top level.” It’s therefore not expected that coach Joachim Löw will throw him back into the starting line-up for what will be a hard test at Windsor Park.

Particularly as Löw has half a dozen centre-backs to choose from as World Cup qualification draws to a close. Boateng’s teammate Mats Hummels is set to start, while the second spot is up for grabs between Niklas Süle, Antonio Rüdiger, Matthias Ginter and Shkordan Mustafi, who have all shown what they’re capable of during Boateng’s absence – not least during Germany’s Confed Cup success in the summer.

“One of the best on the planet”

For Löw’s assistant Thomas Schneider, it’s clear that Boateng won’t be back to his best yet following a lengthy spell of injuries: “He’ll need a while yet but when he’s fit and in form, Jérôme is one of the best centre-backs on the planet.”

The 29 year-old is looking to put a tough period behind him. Since tearing muscle in his right thigh during the EURO 2016 semi-final against France, he’s only played two of Germany’s 17 internationals. “It’s always tough when you have to watch the lads. I’ve been working all the time to get back here, not just for my club but also my country,” said the defender, giving an insight into his personal struggle.

“Once is unfortunate, and then obviously you start thinking about it. Why has it happened again?” added Boateng, describing his thoughts when he had to have an operation on his chest last December before his latest thigh injury in May. Boateng looked into the cause of it and then fought back. “Now I want to put what I’ve been working on into practice as well as I possibly can.”

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