In the 12 months leading up to the next World Cup Antionio Rüdiger has quietly climbed up the pecking order among German defenders. He spoke to DW about his role and his aspirations ahead of 2018 in Russia.
DW: Was the equalizer against France (2-2 in Cologne on November 14) a case of a hard-working team making their own luck at the end of a long national-team schedule in 2017?
Antonio Rüdiger: It was a very long year, and I think it was important that we remained undefeated this year, also for our fans. I am also pleased, of course.
You were subbed on in the second half and were heavily involved in the game. Have you established yourself as a member of the national team?
Yes, this is important for me. I am still young, I still have a lot to learn. I simply want to help the team. That's what is important to me.
After 10 victories in World Cup qualifying you faced two really tough opponents in England and France in the final two friendlies of the year. Did these two matches provide an indication of what Germany still need to work on leading up to the World Cup?
We still need to work on a lot of things, of course. That's the way things are with the national team. We aren't together that often and we have to come together. In the run-up to the World Cup the most important thing is that everybody stays healthy and those who aren't recover their fitness. I hope that everybody will be at their top level of fitness when we head to the World Cup.
Some of those who had been injured are back in the squad. Can you feel the competition for places in the World Cup squad yet?
We are always in competition with each other. If you play for a national team like Germany, competition is part of the deal. There are a lot of good lads in the team and we are the defending World Cup champions. So you really have to prove yourself in every training session and every match.
Can you win the World Cup again?
There's a long way to go ... (laughs)
Antonio Rüdiger, 24, has made 22 appearances for the German national team. The Berlin native, whose mother is from Sierra Leone, came up through Borussia Dortmund's youth academy, before making his Bundesliga debut with Stuttgart. Joachim Löw named him to his Euro 2016 squad, but an injury ruled him out of the tournament. The central defender, who now plays for Chelsea, is hoping to earn a place in the squad that Löw takes to the World Cup in Russia next summer.
The interview was conducted by Joscha Weber.