World Cup 2018: Neuer, Reus and Petersen get their chance in Austria friendly | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 01.06.2018
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World Cup 2018: Neuer, Reus and Petersen get their chance in Austria friendly

With just over two weeks left until they open their World Cup defense, several questions still hang over Germany's squad. Manuel Neuer must prove his fitness against Austria while Joachim Löw has tough choices to make.

Considering their status as holders and one of the favorites for Russia 2018, Germany seem to have a few niggling and persistent issues, even with their World Cup opener against Mexico just 16 days away.

Their four-game winless streak - albeit in friendlies - is their worst run of form since 2004, the year of the group stage exit of the Euros, while key men Manuel Neuer and Jerome Boateng remain fitness doubts.

Neuer will start against Austria on Saturday as he bids to prove his fitness to Löw and demote Marc-Andre ter Stegen to number two. Löw praised the Barcelona keeper in his press conference on Friday:  "He has matured. He had a tough start to his Germany career, but he has overcome that very well."

The 58-year-old coach also confirmed that Boateng is not fit enough to play on Saturday. The Bayern Munich center back hasn't played in over a month after picking up an injury in Bayern's first leg loss to Real Madrid. His club teammates Mats Hummels and Thomas Müller also won't travel to the match in Klagenfurt, near Austria's border with Slovenia.

While Neuer's first appearance since September is sure to catch many an eye, Saturday's match will mark the end of an even longer wait for the only Borussia Dortmund player in the Germany squad.

It's 795 days since Marco Reus last pulled on the national team shirt in a friendly against Italy, with a series of injuries scuppering his chances, including at World Cup 2014 and Euro 2016. Reus, who turned 29 on Thursday, was a rare bright spot for Dortmund towards the end of the season, scoring seven times in their last 10 games to provide Löw with a timely reminder of what he'd been missing.

"It's good that he is back with the team after a long time out," Löw said. "He's incredibly skillful, intelligent and a surprise for opponents. He'll definitely play tomorrow. He's a rocket. We can all look forward to him at the World Cup."

Joachim Löw has some decisions to make in the coming days(picture-alliance/dpa/Revierfoto)

Joachim Löw has some decisions to make in the coming days

Though Germany's team, fitness permitting, looks largely nailed down, one of the three positions behind Timo Werner and alongside Thomas Müller and Mesut Özil looks up for grabs. Though he's competing with Leroy Sane and Julian Draxler, Löw suggested Reus's versatility may prove useful as a game-breaker for Germany.

Nils Petersen, the joker in Löw's pack, will also get a runout, despite rumors that he will be one of the four players cut by the Germany boss as he trims the squad from 27 to 23 ahead of their last friendly against Saudi Arabia on June 8.

"I'll speak to the relevant players on Monday," Low said. "They'll then leave some time in the afternoon. When I knock on their door, they have a bad feeling because I don't knock at the door of Boateng, Hummels or [Joshua] Kimmich."

Löw, and millions of German fans, will be hoping Neuer and Reus get through Saturday without too many bad feelings, then the anticipation for Russia can really start to build.

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