Germany's national football team have met with Pope Francis at the Vatican in Rome. Germany are preparing to face their old rivals Italy in a friendly on Tuesday, just days after beating San Marino 8-0.
Dressed in dark suits, head coach Joachim Löw, his 20 players, and the rest of the German national team's entourage entered the Vatican just after 8 a.m. local time on Monday, where they met with the pope for almost an hour.
"I am please to welcome the reigning World Cup champions," said the Argentina-born pope, who is known to be a big fan of football.
"Victories in football are always team victories. Your team is defined by this quality. Victories in top-level sports require not only a great deal of discipline, but also a sense of responsibility and respect for one-another. This is what makes you successful," Pope Francis said.
The president of the DFB (German football association), Reinhard Grindel, told the pope that being granted a private audience with him was a "great honor" for the national team.
The pope was presented with a framed Germany jersey signed by all of the members of the national team.
"It was very nice," coach Löw said afterwards. "He touched all of us."
"It certainly was impressive," said Serge Gnaby, who made his debut in the men's national team by scoring a hat trick against San Marino on Friday.
On to Milan
After the meeting, the German team's bus left the grounds of the Vatican and took the team to the airport, where they boarded a charter flight north to Milan, the site of Tuesday's friendly against the Squadra Azzurra.
Germany will be looking to wrap up their 2016 schedule by beating Italy for the third time in a row, following their 4-1 victory in a friendly in Munich in March and their 6-5 win on penalties in the quarterfinals of the European championship in Bordeaux in June.