It’s off again, and the World Cup holders must make up some leeway. A friendly match against Australia will open the international season for the German national team in Kaiserslautern on Wednesday (March 25, 20:30hrs CET), then four days later their first competitive match will follow against Georgia in Tblisi (March 29, 18:00 hrs CET). Three important points are at stake in order to qualify from Group D of the 2016 European Championship and gain the seeding as group winners at the draw at the end of this year. National coach Joachim Loew announced on Friday (March 20) the squad with whom he wants to achieve this successful start to the season. After long injury breaks Ilkay Guendogan (Dortmund) and Holger Badstuber (FC Bayern) have returned to the 23-player squad.
“Both have suffered for a long time, but now they’ve recovered. I was moved by seeing Ilkay and Holger on the ball again, and I’m impressed how quickly they have managed to reach their customary high level”, Loew said.
Due to prolonged back problems Guendogan (eight caps so far) played his last international match against Paraguay (3-3) in Kaiserslautern on August 14, 2013; Badstuber (30 caps) earned his last cap at the 4-4 draw with Sweden in Berlin on October 16, 2012. He had suffered a ruptured crucial ligament and underwent four operations on his knee. The team will be led by captain Bastian Schweinsteiger (FC Bayern), who is, after injuries, also back in the squad for the first time since the 2014 World Cup final against Argentina. “Bastian is a great leader. We need him on the pitch as well as off it. It is good to have him back”, explained Loew.
Lukas Podolski has again been nominated although the international with 121 caps has been unable to secure a regular place with Inter Milan after his move from Arsenal FC. According to the official announcement by the German Football Association (DFB) the strikers in the squad are Mario Goetze (FC Bayern) and Max Kruse (Moenchengladbach). Despite recent much improved performances with AC Florence, Mario Gomez was not invited.
The encounter against Australia may be the opener, but the more important match will then take place in Georgia. “World Cup champions against the Asian champions – that’s a good start to the international year of 2015. At the same time the game is a welcome opportunity for us to adjust ourselves for the important match against Georgia”, said Loew. The Australians are coming full of confidence since the team won the Asia Cup in January for the first time. The squad from “Down Under” includes two professionals playing in Germany: Mitch Langerak of Borussia Dortmund, who is the substitute goalkeeper with the national team as well as with Dortmund, and striker Matthew Leckie of second division top team FC Ingolstadt, who is a regular under national coach Ante Postecoglou. Former Nuremberg player Matthew Spiranovic (Western Sydney Wanderers) is also in the squad.
Bayer Leverkusen’s Robbie Kruse is missing due to an ankle joint injury suffered during the Asian Cup final. Australia will play Macedonia in Skopje five days after the match against Germany.
For Loew and his players the match in south-east Europe is more important than the encounter with the “Socceroos”. The German team currently hold third position with seven points in their group behind Poland (10) and Ireland (7) and only narrowly ahead of Scotland (also 7). The World Cup champions have already played three home matches, more than any other competitor. Ireland have enjoyed just one match at home. A certain pressure cannot be denied after the mediocre performances following the World Cup triumph. About the constellation in the European qualification Group D Loew said: “We are not used to this situation, but it is not a problem. Our senses are sharpened, we know we are challenged and have to get points”
The announcementof the squad on March 20 was Loew’s first official act after his contract with the DFB had been extended in the previous week by two years until 2018. The Freiburg-born coach thus will be at the helm of the German national team until at least after the 2018 World Cup finals. “Heart and brain” had both said “yes”, revealed Loew, who will be DFB head coach for twelve years if he fulfils the new contract. In order to equal the record of coach Sepp Herberger, he would have to stay at the helm until EURO 2020.
Georgia, second from bottom in the qualifying group (just three points from the 3-0 away in Gibraltar), are relying on the experience and special insights of national coach Kachaber Zchadadse, who played 73 matches with Eintracht Frankfurt in the Bundesliga between 1993 and 1996 and with Manchester City in the Premier League from 1998 to 2000. The DFB team have met the Caucasus country Georgia three times so far, with Germany winning all three. In the 1996 European qualification the German team, then coached by Berti Vogts, won 2-0 in Tblisi. Juergen Klinsmann scored both goals in this encounter in front of 75,000 spectators, exactly 20 years ago to the day of the repeat on March 29, 2015.