German national coach Joachim Loew and playing stars such as Thomas Mueller and Sami Khedira are hoping for a team spirit at the 2016 European Championship comparable to when they won the World Cup two years ago. The final tests against Slovakia and Hungary will hopefully entice many children and families to the fixtures.
Meanwhile the answer to a puzzle prior to the European Championship kick-off has been scheduled. In a friendly before the finals (June 10-July10) in France, Germany will meet Slovakia in Augsburg. Two days later Joachim Loew must nominate by the May 31 deadline his squad for the Championships.
Following international friendlies against England (March 27, Berlin) and Italy (March 29, Munich) these two further matches will be played before the squad departs from Frankfurt on June 7 for their European Championship quarters at Evian-les-Bains. The match against Slovakia in Augsburg (May 29, 17:45hrs) as well as the encounter with Hungary in Gelsenkirchen (June 4, 18:00hrs) will hopefully attract many children and teenagers who want to give their idols an impressive send-off to France. The German Football Association (DFB) consciously chose the early kick-off times since the World Cup champions had failed to draw capacity crowds during EURO qualifications.
To Vice President Reinhard Rauball, 69, it was particularly important to set kick-off times early in the evening: “With fixing the two encounters the preparation programme for the national team has been concluded. We are particularly pleased that with the early kick-offs we have created ideal conditions, not only for Joachim Loew and his team but also for the fans. With the early evening kick-off times we want to show clearly how important families, children and juveniles are to us”.
The match in Augsburg has also been declared a charity game. Thus the organiser is the DFB Foundation Egidius Braun, with revenues from marketing and ticketing going to the DFB Foundations and the Bundesliga Foundation pro rata. The Robert-Enke Foundation and the Fritz-Water Foundation will also receive grants. The encounter with Slovakia will be the first international match in Augsburg for 31 years – and the first in the arena, opened in 2009, where FC Augsburg play their home matches and several matches of the 2011 Women’s World Cup were held. The last international men’s match in the Fugger City took place on April 17, 1985, on the occasion of Augsburg’s 2000-year celebrations. Germany defeated Bulgaria 4-1 at the then Rosen Stadium.
However, the encounters with Slovakia and Hungary are not only marked by social activities. National coach Loew, 56, wants to use the tests to get final insights before the first European Championship match against the Ukraine on June 12. The claim “Vive le Team” points to the excellent team spirit during the 2014 World Cup and should fire the team’s hopes in France also. Team manager Oliver Bierhoff, 47, can hardly wait for the tournament to start: “I’m tingling. The national handball team showed us what you can achieve with team spirit. We have great potential, I’m very confident”.
Loew has confidence with the processes schemed during the joint preparation, and is hoping to win the next title: “I know that I can trust my team when we go into such a tournament, when the concentration sets in and we are together as a close unit for a few weeks. Then the team grows together and a good team spirit is created. We are looking forward, knowing we are among the favourites, something we cannot deny – but we accept that role”. For Thomas Mueller, 26, the road to the next trophy depends mainly on team spirit: “Of course the team needs good individual players, but the team spirit is vital. That was our credo when we won the title in Brazil. And of course we want to take that over to the European Championship”.
All people involved know, however, that a good team spirit without top performances will not suffice for winning the fourth European title after 1972, 1980 and 1996. Sami Khedira expects the reigning World Cup champions will face even greater pressure than at the previous tournaments. The Juventus Turin midfielder knows it needs a clear improvement on the qualifying matches if the DFB wants to achieve back-to-back World Cup and European titles for the first time. “It’s not impossible, even though it will be tough. But if we are honest we don’t stand a chance in our current form. The performances were not good enough in the past few months. I think we all know it. Everybody realises that we will have to improve if we want to play for the title at the European Championship. We must again be a close unit on and off the pitch. If we achieve that, and I’m totally convinced we will, we are hard to beat. Then we will definitely be in the battle for the title”, the 28-year-old told the newspaper “Die Welt“. And he added: “What we don’t need for a moment in France are players who only think of themselves. You don’t win a title with 23 egotists“.
22 March, Tuesday:
Meeting in Berlin
26 March, Saturday:
International match: Germany vs England in Berlin, kick-off 20:45hrs CET
29 March, Tuesday:
International match: Germany vs Italy in Munich, kick-off 20:45hrs
23 May (Monday) to 3 June (Friday):
Training camp in Ascona (Ticino/Switzerland)
29 May, Sunday:
International match: Germany vs Slovakia in Augsburg, kick-off 17:45hrs
4 June, Saturday:
International match: Germany vs Hungary in Gelsenkirchen, kick-off 18:00hrs
from 7 June (Tuesday)
Moving to the European Championship team quarters at Evian-les-Bains (Lake Geneva/France)
12 June, Sunday:
EURO group match: Germany vs Ukraine in Lille, kick-off 21:00hrs
16 June, Thursday:
EURO group match: Germany vs Poland at Saint-Denis, kick-off 21:00hrs
21 June, Tuesday:
EURO group match: Northern Ireland vs Germany in Paris, kick-off 18:00hrs
The knock-out stage starts on 25 June, the quarter-finals on 30 June, the semi-finals on 6 July, the final takes place on July 10.