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Manuel Neuer looking like his old self for Germany

Thomas Klein
June 25, 2024

With their last-minute draw against Switzerland, Germany's men have finished top of Group A to advance to the round of 16 in Euro 2024. A big part of their success has been their longtime No.1, Manuel Neuer.

Manuel Neuer pointing
Germany need Manuel Neuer to continue to be at his best if they are going to go deep into Euro 2024 Image: Heiko Becker/REUTERS

With his save near the end of the Switzerland match on Sunday, Manuel Neuer once again showed why he is still considered one of the world's best goalkeepers. The 38-year-old fended off a powerful long-range shot from Bayer Leverkusen's Granit Xhaka, preventing Switzerland from increasing their lead to 2-0. Just moments later,  Niclas Füllkrug headed home at the other end to equalize – and put Germany top of the group.

In addition to making good saves, Neuer has been something of a playing assistant coach in this tournament. Not only in Germany's matches against Scotland and Hungary but also against Switzerland, the goalkeeper sprinted to the coaching area from time to time for a quick chat with national team boss Julian Nagelsmann. This is something he also did when Nagelsmann was his coach at Bayern Munich.

Manuel Neuer speaking to Julian Nagelsmann in the coaching zone
Manuel Neuer has been function as an unoffical playing coach for Julian NagelsmannImage: Daniela Porcelli/picture alliance

"It's important that we stay in communication and that I can then be the coach's extended arm on the pitch," Neuer said. "If I notice something or the coach wants to change something tactically, then I try to communicate that to my teammates."

Serious skiing injury

Neuer has been so good at this tournament, that it would be easy to forget that it was only a year and a half ago that he suffered a serious injury – breaking his tibia and fibula in a skiing accident.

It wasn't until 311 days after the accident that Neuer returned to action for Bayern Munich. By then, Neuer had missed 44 games with his club and the national team. At the World Cup in Qatar, less than a year after suffering the injury, he was once again between the sticks as Germany's No. 1.

Overtaking Gianluigi Buffon

Neuer has achieved almost every honor on offer in his goalkeeping career, including the 2014 World Cup, the Champions League (2013, 2020), 11 Bundesliga titles and 6 German Cups.

The match against Switzerland was his 18th appearance at a European Championship, overtaking Italy's Gianluigi Buffon's record for goalkeepers of 17.

Manuel Neuer and the rest of the Germany team that won the 2014 World Cup
Manuel Neuer was a key part of Germany's last World Cup titleImage: Rauchensteiner/Augenklick/picture alliance

"He's a fantastic goalkeeper who has turned his physical superiority into his strength," Buffon told Italian reporters. "He has a different style to ours, which I really appreciate given what Neuer has achieved."

Buffon a keen observer

Neuer has revolutionized the very role of a goalkeeper, something that fans all over sat up and took notice of at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. He has a flair for high-risk plays, be it a spectacular save with his head or a sliding tackle outside of his area. For a goalkeeper, he is very good with the ball at his feet and likes to launch attacks.

Even Buffon admitted recently that he watches Neuer's goalkeeping very closely.

"Sometimes I watch him because I want to learn from him," Buffon said. "A footballer must always try to improve. That applies not only to sport but also to everyday life. It helps you gain confidence in dealing with people and with the world."

Silencing his critics

Neuer remains one of the greatest footballers of his era. However, prior to the start of Euro 2024, uncharacteristic mistakes had some questioning whether he still deserved to be Germany's No. 1.

Coach Nagelsmann, though, never wavered. Neuer has repaid the boss' faith in him with strong performances in the first three matches of the tournament, twice preventing what looked like almost certain goals against Hungary and then against Switzerland.

Manuel Neuer goes down to save a shot
Manuel Neuer had come under fire for recent mistakes one wouldn't expect from himImage: Andrzej Iwanczuk/picture alliance

A rejigged back line

However, Neuer is set to face a new challenge in the round of 16. Nagelsmann will have to change his back line. Jonathan Tah is suspended for the match following his second yellow card and Antonio Rüdiger is struggling with a pulled muscle – and may not be fit by Saturday. Borussia Dortmund's Nico Schlotterbeck is likely to replace Tah in the starting lineup. If Rüdiger is also unavailable, Stuttgart's Waldemar Anton or Robin Koch of Eintracht Frankfurt are possible replacements.

"Nico is left footed. That's a minor difference," Neuer said of Schlotterbeck.

"But basically, he's also a defender who, like Jona (Jonathan Tah), can defend aggressively. Jonah has done very well so far, and the players who have come in have also done well. So, I think it will still be positive."

This article was adapted from German.