Nils Petersen: ′Perhaps I′m the surprise no one knew of′ | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 25.05.2018
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Nils Petersen: 'Perhaps I'm the surprise no one knew of'

Nils Petersen is the surprise inclusion in Germany's provisional World Cup squad. Although he nearly missed the call to be involved, this under-the-radar striker now has an unexpected chance to make his name in Russia.

Nils Petersen isn’t supposed to be here; he’s supposed to be on holiday.

And after missing three calls from Joachim Löw because he was at lunch with his Freiburg teammates celebrating their Bundesliga survival, the 29-year-old striker was worried he would be. “It came out of nowhere!" he revealed. "I hoped that in that time he hadn’t called anyone else, but then I got the good news.”

Read more: Nils Petersen the joker in Germany's World Cup pack

He first told his girlfriend, so that she could cancel their holiday. He didn’t tell his dad until the evening because “he’d have probably told everyone.”

But any suggestion of the Freiburg striker looking out of place was swiftly dismissed during Friday’s press conference at Germany's training camp in Italy. Petersen’s arrival was calm, taking his place while team manager Oliver Bierhoff was talking. Not once did he look or sound out of his depth.

“I’ve been really welcomed," he began, coolly. "But I’m not completely new. I know the lads from Bayern, the Olympics team and the U21s."

Nils Petersen DFB Training in Eppan (DW/T. Klein)

Nils Petersen was calmness personified at Germany's training camp

One for the album

There was even time to laugh when a young German football fan asked whether the striker was "annoyed" that he wasn’t in the popular Panini World Cup sticker album. Petersen replied in the negative, before adding with a smile: “I hope to be a part of this team for a while, and maybe then I’ll make it into the Panini album.”

While amusing, Petersen’s absence from the album is an appropriate metaphor for the country-wide surprise at the striker’s inclusion. Granted, his 15 goals were the second highest in the Bundesliga this season, but this is not a striker who, at first glance, fits the slick, modern Germany football brand that has evolved in the last eight years.

This is a journeyman of sorts, who started at Carl Zeiss Jena, suffered, but learnt from a brief year at Bayern Munich, and eventually found his place at Freiburg.

Petersen’s international career never looked like going anywhere beyond leading Germany to Olympic silver two years ago — an achievement that Petersen tellingly classed as a "disappointment."

Now he has 10 days to make it into Germany’s final 23-man World Cup squad.

“What has happened in my 29 years is remarkable. You always think things have got to go downhill at some point, but now I’m with the national team,” Petersen said.

Italien Eppan Trainingslager Nationalmannschaft - Nils Petersen und Joachim Löw (picture-alliance/GES/M. I. Güngör)

Coach Joachim Löw (right) puts Petersen through his paces in training

Battle for places

With Joachim Löw unlikely to take more than two strikers and Timo Werner looking like the starter, Petersen will probably have to hold off the charge of the battle-hardened veteran, Mario Gomez.

The 32-year-old Stuttgart striker isn’t coming off a great season — nine goals in 28 games — but has been here before and knows the role. Petersen acknowledged the speed and power of his striker colleagues, but added: “Perhaps I’m the surprise that no one knew.”

Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that in Petersen, Germany might well have found a player they haven’t really had since Oliver Bierhoff prowled the box — the super sub.

“I’ve spent my life being subbed on. You can’t be negative about it and sometimes, it only takes a few minutes to make a difference,” Petersen said.

That much was true in Brazil four years ago when Joachim Löw told Mario Götze to go and show the world he was better than Lionel Messi. If Petersen does goes to Russia, Löw won’t have to tell his super-sub anything.

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