For Joachim Löw’s coaching and backroom staff, the countdown is already well underway for the UEFA European Championships. On 17 May, Germany’s head coach will name his squad for the tournament in France .Up until then, the World Cup winning coach is hoping no more key players get injured.
Löw intends announcing his preliminary EURO 2016 squad in Berlin on 17 May. The Deutsche Fussball Bund’s (DFB – German Football Association) head coach will, like before all major tournaments recently, in all probability initially nominate more players than he can take to the competition. Then he will wait until after the start of the EURO training camp in Ascona in Switzerland on 23 May before picking the final squad for France. Löw’s 23 selections have to be made known to the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) by 30 May.
The head coach is rightfully a worried man at the sharp end of the of the national and international club seasons. He cannot do with any further injuries as many of his candidates for a regular place in the team are far from being fit. “At the moment, the news I’m getting isn’t very encouraging. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Julian Draxler, Emre Can, Jerome Boateng, Bennie Höwedes – five players that could play a vital role at the Europeans,” said Löw in the middle of April. “They’re all injured and haven’t played for a while now. It’s a major worry,” declared the head coach. On 23 April, he was at least given one good piece of news.
After being out of the game for 127 days, Benedikt Höwedes returned to action for three minutes in his team Schalke’s 3-2 home defeat against Bayer Leverkusen. “It wasn’t planned for me to play so soon against Leverkusen,” said the 28-year old who picked up a serious thigh injury in his side’s winter training camp. At least the short appearance on the pitch has given him and Löw new hope. Two years ago Höwedes also got injured towards the end of the season but returned in the final league game and then played every minute of the World Cup triumph in Brazil. The Schalke captain could help solve the current problems in the German defence.
As for the other players, it will take a while before they make a comeback. It is also certain some of them will not make it. Liverpool’s Emre Can will be out of the game with ruptured ankle ligaments until well into the middle of May. The chances of the former Leverkusen and Bayern player being in the fold at EURO 2016 hangs on a thread as do those of team captain Schweinsteiger and Draxler. Schweinsteiger is almost sure to play no further part in the season for Manchester United. A big doubt is also whether the talented Draxler from VfL Wolfsburg will be fit again after a torn muscle. However Löw has experience in getting injured payers that he selected for the squad back fit again during the course of the training camp.
“There are injured players ahead of every tournament. Basti Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira were also injured before of the 2014 World Cup. We somehow managed to get them ready,” said Löw when talking about the recovery process of his midfield generals at the training camp in St. Leonhard. At the time, Philipp Lahm and Manuel Neuer were also not fully fit when arriving at the camp in South Tyrol but then were regulars in all seven World Cup matches. Germany’s head coach however will probably be sending prayers up to the heavens before every Bundesliga match and before every Bayern encounter in the Champions League. There can be no more injury problems as his “medical staff” will be unable to cope with too many ailing squad members. Seriously afflicted players have to receive intensive treatment from the doctors and even more from the DFB physiotherapists. However there is only limited time and capacity available to treat the injured so that there could be a long queue waiting for a free massage table.
There is also good news: Jerome Boateng could soon return to action for Bayern. If nothing untoward happens, the defender will be in the German team when their EURO 2016 campaign gets underway with the group match against Ukraine in Lille on 12 June. Should important players become unavailable, Löw would however have the chance to replenish the squad with a number of youngsters. Talents like Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich), Leroy Sane (Schalke 04) or Julian Weigl (Borussia Dortmund) have already been mentioned as candidates. Recently however one player has been putting himself into the frame: Leverkusen’s Julian Brandt who will celebrate his 20th birthday on 2 May. “Baby face a must as Löw’s surprise choice” was the headline in the “Die Welt” national newspaper after the offensive midfielder had scored a goal in each of Leverkusen’s last five Bundesliga matches which were all won. A player that can surprise the opposition like David Odonkor at the 2006 World Cup would be a useful addition. And Löw would have no qualms in making a decision similar to the one his boss Jürgen Klinsmann made at the time.