Germany had barely arrived in France, when defender Antonio Rüdiger’s tournament was ended through injury. He had been seen as the most likely man to fill in for the still-ailing Mats Hummels in Germany’s first match.
The usually (at least outwardly) stoic German head coach Joachim Löw must have winced (or at least wanted to) , when Rüdiger failed to get up right away after a Thomas Müller tackle during a training match played in front of dozens of journalists and around 1,000 spectators on Tuesday.
Rüdiger was helped off the pitch and the severity of his injury was revealed shortly after the session ended, when an examination by the team’s medical staff determined the Roma defender had sustained a cruciate ligament rupture in his right knee.
This is definitely not what Löw wanted to see, just a couple of hours after the German team’s coach arrived at their new digs in Evian-les-Bains, on the French side of Lake Geneva. The four-star hotel Ermitage is to be their base for as long as their Euro 2016 campaign lasts – preferably until just before they leave for Paris for the final on July 10.
Rüdiger had been expected to fill in for Mats Hummels, who is still recovering from a calf injury, and is not expected to be fit for Germany's opener against Ukraine on Sunday.
The head coach has Valencia's Shkodran Mustafi as central defensive cover and may be tempted to move Schalke's Benedikt Höwedes back in to the middle after he started at right back in Saturday's win over Hungary.
A statement posted on the DFB’s website said that a decision on who would be called up to fill Rüdiger’s place on the 23-man roster was still to be taken by Löw and his coaching team. Bayer Leverkusen's Jonathan Tah and Borussia Dortmund's Marcel Schmelzer are among the possible replacements.
But with the news coming long after the open practice had ended, it did nothing to put a dampener on the feel-good atmosphere in the packed stand at Evian`s quaint Stade Camille Fournier which provides a pretty view of Lake Geneva behind the field.
The largely young crowd cheered every name as the German players were introduced on the PA system by a DFB official who aplogized for any mistakes he might make in speaking French. However to one who don’t speak it as their "langue maternelle" it sounded pretty close to impeccable.
Every once in a while a group of French-German exchange students would break into cheering, often for reasons that weren’t immediately clear. Müller, who would score one of the goals in the training match, would wait for his name to be chanted before acknowledging his adoring fans with a wave.
The day ended with the German team looking to make a good impression on their new neighbors by kicking new Euro2016 balls into the crowd, a DFB official urging the adults in French to let the children have them. The same official then convinced the German players to stay and sign a few of the balls.
Just a few minutes later, team manager Oliver Bierhoff was on the scene to urge the players off. Being good neighbors is fine, but Germany are here to do a job. With Rüdiger now ruled out, that job may have just got a little tougher for both Bierhoff and Löw.