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Germany hope quality and togetherness shine at Euro 2024

Thomas Klein
June 12, 2024

Germany's defense, midfield and attack have been revamped for the home men's Euros. Group A rivals Scotland, Hungary and Switzerland will have their work cut out against the hosts.

Julian Nagelsmann
Julian Nagelsmann's side have improved since his appointment in SeptemberImage: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Germany's men flopped at the last two World Cups, going out in the group stages, and they only managed the round of 16 at the last European Championship.

Now they are hosting Euro 2024, and wins over France, the Netherlands and Greece in three of their last four friendlies have boosted confidence around new head coach Julian Nagelsmann's team. But are the defense, midfield and attack good enough to lift the trophy on July 14 in Berlin?

How stable is the German defense?

Germany conceded seven goals in the last three games of 2023. The leaky defense had already been a recurring problem under former coaches Hansi Flick and Joachim Löw. But since Nagelsmann has opted for Real Madrid's Champions League winner Antonio Rüdiger and Bayer Leverkusen's domestic double winner Jonathan Tah in central defense, the team's back line has stabilized.

"What makes us strong is our communication. We talk a lot on and off the pitch," said Rüdiger about his teammate Tah. "He also stands out because he's a leader and doesn't shy away from talking. For me, he's the best central defender in the Bundesliga."

Jonathan Tah playing football for Germany
Jonathan Tah has become a key part of the German defenseImage: Revierfoto/IMAGO

On the right side of defense, former midfield general Joshua Kimmich is expected to repeatedly create danger from out wide. Stuttgart's Maximilian Mittelstädt appears set at left-back but is the least experienced player in the defensive unit. However, one of the best players of the Bundesliga season just gone can benefit from the experience of his teammates.

"It depends on each individual, even if they have less experience," said goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who will play in a seventh major tournament when it kicks off with the hosts against Scotland in Munich on Friday.

"We need imagination and self-confidence. And the players who are in the squad have developed that at their clubs."

However, Neuer himself is the subject of some debate following some errors in recent friendlies, including the most recent against Greece. Nagelsmann has given the former Germany captain his backing, but there are plenty who think it may be time for a change. 

What will Toni Kroos' return bring to the squad?

The coach found a new but familiar solution for a previously misfiring midfield. Six-time Champions League winner Toni Kroos is back in a Germany shirt after initially retiring from international football in 2021.

"He is very important, but not the sole savior," said Nagelsmann, highlighting Kroos' qualities. "He can be a brilliant link player between the attack and defense." Kroos, 34, is retiring from all football after the Euros.

At Real Madrid, Kroos had a pass success rate of 95% in the Champions League this term, and he is now bringing this security and accuracy back to the national team. But the key to success could be his midfield partner Robert Andrich, who has only been an international since November 2023 and has Kroos' back.

Robert Andrich and Toni Kroos in action against France in March
Robert Andrich and Toni Kroos will be Germany's midfield engineImage: Moritz Mueller/IMAGO

Nagelsmann once described Andrich, another member of Leverkusen's title-winning squad, as a "worker," but that doesn't do Andrich justice. Club coach Xabi Alonso, who himself was one of the world's best midfielders, has taught him well and raised the 29-year-old late bloomer's level.

The Andrich/Kroos duo has provided the team with the necessary calm and security that Germany had been lacking.

Creative forces Florian Wirtz and Jamal Musiala, in particular, are benefitting from playing with the two deeper midfielders, while captain Ilkay Gündogan links the two duos, although his form is shaky.

"We've improved a lot in our play with the ball, so we can get Flo and Jamal into the spaces where they're incredibly effective," said Andrich.

Who will score the goals for Germany?

The German attack finally has a proper number nine again, though he might not start. Borussia Dortmund's Niklas Füllkrug has already scored 11 goals in his 15 international contests.

More technically adept, Kai Havertz from Arsenal looks set to lead the line instead, but Füllkrug and Bayern Munich veteran Thomas Müller are good options from the bench.

Bayern's speedy winger Leroy Sané, who is still suffering from groin problems, is not fully fit but could play an important role as the tournament wears on.

Can Germany become European champions?

Nagelsmann has found a good mix for his team.

The experience of Neuer contrasts with exciting new names such as Stuttgart winger Chris Führich, forward Deniz Undav and young Hoffenheim striker Maximilian Beier, who played well in the 0-0 warmup draw with Ukraine.

In addition to exploiting the squad's quality, Nagelsmann is also focusing on fostering an atmosphere of fun.

"There's much more togetherness than before," said defender Tah. "It's a mixed bunch that gets on well and wants to be successful."

Hard work and enjoyment are the order of the day.

"This combination can lead to us being successful. That's why I have a good feeling about the tournament," he added.

This article was translated from German