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Schult back at last as Germany beat Bulgaria

Tom Gennoy
September 7, 2022

Germany beat Bulgaria 8-0 in their final World Cup qualifier on a special night for Almuth Schult, who celebrated an emotional return to the national team after three years away.

Almuth Schult playing for Germany against Bulgaria
Almuth Schult kept a clean sheet in a quiet return to German colorsImage: Beautiful Sports/imago images

For three years, goalkeeper Almuth Schult has looked forward to returning to international action. Patiently she's waited, through injury, illness, and the stresses and strains of maternity, to stand between the sticks for her country once more. On Tuesday, as Germany cruised past a lightweight Bulgaria in their final World Cup qualifier, the 31-year-old was at last given the chance.

"I'm very emotional because it's been a long time, and a long struggle, to play another international," Schult said through tears at full time.

Since her last appearance for Germany back in 2019, Schult has given birth to twins, repeatedly been sidelined by shoulder problems, and switched continents after signing for Angel City FC in Los Angeles. By the time she was fit enough to return to the international fold, Merle Frohms had taken her place.

Tuesday's comeback was utterly lacking in intensity and intrigue. Bulgaria posed Germany no threat, Schult was barely required to make a single save – but she couldn't care less.

"Honestly, as a goalkeeper I'm used to it," she admitted after the game. "As a keeper, you can't influence what happens in front of you, but even if I hadn't touched the ball a single time, it was still an international appearance, and very valuable to me," said Schult.

Contrast to Euro final

Scarcely more than a month since they walked out in front of 90,000 fans at Wembley Stadium and came within inches of a ninth European Championship trophy, Germany played their final competitive fixture of the year.

Bulgaria away, suffice to say, was a different affair to England at Wembley.

In front of somewhere in the region of 200 supporters, Germany put eight past their hosts on a mossy, bobbly pitch, of which Sara Däbritz said beforehand: "You can't play one-touch football." In more than just one respect, Plovdiv is a long way from London.

Much like in their game against Turkey, in which they secured their World Cup qualification, Germany were dogged by ineffectiveness early on.

After Lea Schüller finally broke the deadlock, capitalizing on an inevitable blunder in the Bulgarian penalty box, the goals flowed. It was job done for Germany even before the half-time whistle, but that didn't stop Schüller and Laura Freigang completing easy hat tricks in the second half as the European Championship finalists overwhelmed their opponents.

With the introduction of Fabienne Dongus after the break, the squad rotation carousel completed its full turn: every outfield player who was named in the squad for these two qualifiers has been given the chance to feature. But it's against better teams than Bulgaria that those on the periphery will have to impress if they're to play themselves into the 2023 World Cup squad. Friendlies against France and the USA in October and November this year may offer those opportunities.

"Games like this don't help anyone, but they're part and parcel of our work," said Martina Voss-Tecklenburg afterwards.

Almuth Schult didn't care about the caliber of the opponent. After such a long time on the sidelines, her return to international football was a deliverance in itself; sometimes just playing for your country is all that matters.

Edited by Jonathan Harding

Tom Gennoy
Tom Gennoy Reporter@TG94__