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Toni Kroos return sparks Germany joy

March 24, 2024

With a World Cup and multiple Bundesliga, La Liga and Champions League titles, Toni Kroos is among the most decorated footballers of all time. The 34-year-old is back playing for Germany and has made a rapid impact.

Toni Kroos playing football for Germany
Toni Kroos has won almost everything there is to win, but now has Euro 2024 in his sightsImage: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Germany have had their fair share of difficult endings in recent years: from tournaments, from coaches and from a clutch of their World Cup winning players of 2014. But the return of one of those players, Toni Kroos, is among the signs of fresh hope for the Euro 2024 hosts.

Kroos returned to the German team three years after quitting the international game in the wake of Germany's tame exit to England in Euro 2020 (played in 2021). His impact was instant, providing a trademark searching long pass straight from kickoff, from which Florian Wirtz scored Germany's fastest ever international goal after seven seconds of the 2-0 win over France.

"It was planned,” said the Real Madrid midfielder after the game. "We can be very satisfied. We've taken a good and important step forward. It was a chance to get a good feeling heading into the European Championship.”

Arresting the decline

It has been a while since the German men's national team have had that good feeling. Julian Nagelsmann took over as coach last September after a downward spiral of results saw Hansi Flick fired less than two years after succeeding long term boss Joachim Löw.

The World Cup winning coach had tried a player comeback of his own, reinstating Thomas Müller and Mats Hummels ahead of Euro 2020, only to see his team underperform. While it's early days, Nagelsmann's gamble on Kroos seems to have paid off.

"Toni Kroos was unbelievable,” said Nagelsmann postmatch. "He set the pace and worked incredibly hard. He gives the other players so much confidence."

Germany players embrace in celebration of a goal
A new look Germany impressed against FranceImage: Christian Charisius/dpa/picture alliance

While Kroos has seen it all before, the match was also significant for a number of other Germany players still trying to make their mark, to varying degrees, ahead of the Euro 2024 opener against Scotland on June 14 in Munich.

Debutant impresses

Maxi Mittelstädt impressed as one of three debutants who are all 27 and all play for Stuttgart (Waldemar Anton and Deniz Undav were the other two), while Wirtz and Kai Havertz, the current and former prodigies of Bayer Leverkusen, scored the goals, and are both hitting form at the right time.

"When I see Maxi Mittelstädt, how calmly he played in his first international match, that's absolutely remarkable,” said Kroos of the new man in the problem leftback position.

For Havertz, who had also scored in his last four Premier League games for Arsenal, this game marked a change in mood after mixed results as Germany prepared for the Euros with a series of friendlies.

"It was a lot of fun," the 24-year-old said. "We controlled the match in the second half. It is very important that every players knows his role ahead of such a tournament."

For a while, those roles within the Germany squad have been somewhat unclear. Nagelsmann, Flick and even Löw have had to take chances on a shallower pool of talent than those that came before them.

Attacking trio offer glimpse of future

But with Wirtz, Havertz and Bayern Munich's Jamal Musiala offering a young, talented and in-form trio at the top end of the pitch and Kroos adding his calm and metronomic presence in midfield, there are early signs that things are starting to come together for Germany.

"That was one of the best games we've played in recent years,” said Rudi Völler, the sporting director of the German Football Association (DFB). "This victory was well deserved. We were confident in the second half. That was really good. Toni Kroos' return was important, he did an incredible job right from the start."

While it was a fast start to a new beginning in every respect against France, Kroos and Nagelsmann will know that it will only be meaningful if sustained.

Edited by: Wesley Dockery