Intense competition for places as Germany squad prepare for final auditions | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 21.03.2018
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Intense competition for places as Germany squad prepare for final auditions

Germany have held their first training session ahead of friendlies against Spain and Brazil. But first choice keeper Manuel Neuer remains injured and a former great has questioned whether the No.1 will be fit in time.

Twenty-five of the 26 players named in the Germany squad to face Spain and Brazil during the international break were out on the training ground in Düsseldorf on Wednesday.

However, midfielder Sebastian Rudy was absent as his wife is about to give birth. Whether he will be able to join the team in the next few days remains unclear. Emre Can walked off the pitch with back problems after just 20 minutes, but this was later described as merely a "precautionary measure."

Going into these two friendlies, coach Joachim Löw has said he wants to see passion and commitment from his players, as he gets a final glimpse of his squad before naming his provisional squad for Russia in mid-May.

Düsseldorf Training Fußball Nationalmannschaft (Getty Images/AFP/P. Stollarz)

Joachim Löw will name his provisional World Cup squad in mid-May.

Pressure

Forward Thomas Müller told reporters that the players felt more pressure than they would usually be under for a couple of friendlies, but that this was not a bad thing.

"It's a means of maintaining our performance at a high level," Müller said. "Everybody knows that it's time to perform. Nobody can afford to take it easy, and that's good for us."

National team manager, Oliver Bierhoff, said the atmosphere in the camp was good, but that they all knew that the competition for places in Russia was stiff.

"The World Cup is gradually starting to be present in their minds. The focus is becoming sharper," he said.

 Manuel Neuer (Getty Images/Bongarts/A. Hassenstein)

Manuel Neuer has not played a game since September and is a doubt for the World Cup.

Neuer concern

However, former No. 1 goalkeeper Oliver Kahn told German broadcaster Sport 1 that current first-choice between the sticks, Manuel Neuer, may not fully recover from his foot fracture in time for the World Cup.

Kahn described the Bayern Munich goalkeeper's battle for fitness as a "precarious situation," and said his ongoing absence six months after the injury occurred, could eventually force coach Löw to leave him out of the 23-man squad that will go to Russia.

"Eventually it becomes difficult for a coach," Kahn said. "I think he needs a certain period of time in the lead-up to the World Cup. He should play one or two games in the Bundesliga."

Asked about Kahn's speculation, though, Müller, Neuer's teammate at Bayern, warned against "counting Manu out."

"Manuel is looking very good. I haven't heard anything about anything not going according to plan with his recovery," Müller added.

Bierhoff also expressed optimism that the German No. 1 would be ready in time for Russia.

"I'm still positive about things – so is he. There is no pressure from our side."

pfd/mds (dpa, SID)

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