Every major football tournament presents the opportunity for some young player to break through as an international star. There is reason to believe that Euro 2016 could be Julian Draxler’s turn.
The Wolfsburg midfielder exuded confidence as he took to the stage to face the press at the German FA's (DFB) media center in Evian-les-Bains on the shores of Lake Geneva on Friday.
Draxler, who initially seemed to have trouble adjusting to Wolfsburg following the move from his childhood club, Schalke, a good second half of the season for his Bundesliga club, scoring four of his six goals after the turn of the year.
He also impressed on the European stage, having been widely seen as Wolfsburg's best player in their 2-0 win over the mighty Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal in early April.
And throughout the past several months, you could see the now 22-year-old offensive midfielder grow in confidence – something that carried over into Germany's friendlies leading up to Euro 2016.
He was part of the starting 11 for Germany's last two pre-tournament warm-up matches, even scoring in the opening minute of last Saturday's game against Hungary. However, he was unlucky to have it called back for offside, as television footage proved that it was in fact a good goal.
So the time may be right for Draxler, who was a member of Germany's World Cup winning side two years ago, but barely saw any action, to win a starting role out wide on the left, where Jogi Löw likes to use him. Draxler's cause has been helped of course by the fact that the head coach elected to leave Marco Reus out of the 23-man squad due to concerns about his fitness.
Despite this fact, Draxler has no doubt that he belongs in Löw's Euro 2016 squad and deserves a shot at a starting role. Asked recently by German sports broadcaster Sport 1 why he deserved a place in the first 11, Draxler replied: “Because I am in good form, because since January I played a good second half of the season, and because my quality in one-on-ones or two-on-ones against deep-sitting opponents will surely be needed.
Just a few weeks ago, though, it looked like Draxler could be the one hampered by a fitness issue, after he suffered a thigh-muscle tear. Asked on Friday about the injury and his recovery, Draxler's determination to be part of Löw's squad in France was clear.
“When I first got the diagnosis it was a bit of a shock. But from the next day on I did everything I could to return to fitness as quickly as possible,” he said. ”I worked night and day to bet better again, so that I could be in good shape for the (Euro 2016) preparations. I think is achieved that is why I am rightly here.”
As for his aspirations for the Euro, Draxler, though, played it cautious.
“We'll have to wait and see how the tournament goes. I feel am playing well and I am hoping for my chance. As for everything else, we will just have to wait and see,” he said.
Given his recent run of form, it seems a good bet that coach Löw will give Draxler the chance he is looking for as one of the starting 11 in Germany's opening game of the tournament, against Ukraine in Lille on Sunday.