National team: Flick is looking for the goalkeeper - Neuer's return gives hope

Hansi Flick had hoped and waited for these words from Manuel Neuer.

National team: Flick is looking for the goalkeeper - Neuer's return gives hope

Hansi Flick had hoped and waited for these words from Manuel Neuer. After Torgarant Timo Werner's bitter World Cup exit, the positive personal signals from Munich came just in time for the national coach.

A good week before the World Cup departure, national goalkeeper Neuer was not only ready for the trip to the Bundesliga game at Hertha BSC after a long plaguing shoulder pain, but also wants to play in the Olympic Stadium. Attacking player Leroy Sané is also part of the Bayern squad again.

"I'm fine. I did the first team training session. Everything was fine," reported the 36-year-old newcomer after a final endurance test in a Bayern video. The captain had missed seven competitive games due to a shoulder injury. Neuer also expressed confidence for the World Cup tournament in Qatar. "Obviously things are looking good for the World Cup."

Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann had announced a new comeback, "if the final training goes well. We'll have to wait and see how the shoulder reacts, but the week went well." The fourth World Cup participation with the national team does not seem to be in danger for Germany's record goalkeeper. The DFB captain is probably taking a calculable risk on the comeback.

The offensive problem aggravated by RB striker Werner's ankle injury is of course not solved for Flick by Neuer's goal return. It remains more urgent than ever. "This news is very bitter," said the 57-year-old Flick after the shock diagnosis for his top scorer Werner, who was planned as a center forward.

"It's a shitty time for the World Cup"

DFB director Oliver Bierhoff had relentlessly named the now real threat before Werner was eliminated. "You're always afraid that important players will be out at short notice and won't have time to get fit for the tournament." Nagelsmann also regretted the loss of his former Leipzig player. "It's a shitty moment for the World Cup. He would have done the German game good with his speed and goal threat." RB coach Marco Rose said the DFB selection was losing "tempo" and "goals" and also a player with "humor". "That's not unimportant in a tournament like this that lasts several weeks."

Self-pity is of no use to Flick. He only has a few days to name a replacement for Werner. When the national coach announces his list of 26 players for the World Cup next Thursday (12:00 p.m.) at the Frankfurt DFB campus, the direction for Qatar will at least be clear. 13 days later follows the opening game of the DFB selection against Japan.

The German longing for the central nine

The debates about the right direction on the offensive are already underway. Should Flick now rely on a classic center forward like Niclas Füllkrug from Bremen, who has no international experience? The typical German longing for the central nine, which can force the goal with force, is unbroken. The calls for Füllkrug's first DFB nomination echoed loudly through the football republic.

But could the 29-year-old also deliver at the highest World Cup level? The World Cup chances for the tricky BVB youngster Youssoufa Moukoko (17) have definitely increased. Mario Götze (30) may now have a comeback chance as a World Cup hero from 2014 after his renaissance at Eintracht Frankfurt.

But Flick is not one to throw everything overboard quickly. Especially not at the long-planned highlight of the year with the ambitious goal of a fifth world champion star. Even in the few games so far without Werner, the basic statics were not changed by him. So there is much to suggest that the tactical system without Sturm-Brecher could be retained and that the Werner gap could be closed with on-board resources around Thomas Müller, Serge Gnabry or Kai Havertz, who have not been placed at the front of Flick so far.

Too many open question marks

However, one place in the squad is free. But who really convinces in the center forward position? The irony: Despite the eight goals in the 15 international matches of the still short Flick era, Werner was actually an emergency solution for the problem position and had to put up with loud fan criticism again and again.

Flick's World Cup problem is that there are too many offensive question marks in addition to the fixed Werner failure. Dortmund's captain Marco Reus is still suffering from the late effects of a torn ligament. Gladbach's Jonas Hofmann has not played again after his shoulder injury. Sané recently failed at Bayern because of a muscle injury. How many players with ailments that have only just or only halfway recovered can and want to afford Flick in the squad?

The key question is also: will Müller really get fit in time? The 33-year-old Bayern veteran is not traveling to Berlin. Müller's value and expertise are undisputed. No active World Cup player has scored more tournament goals than Munich, who scored a total of ten goals in 2010 and 2014. Other industry superstars such as Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Lionel Messi (Argentina) and Harry Kane (England) each have six World Cup goals. "Hopefully Thomas will be able to start playing again during the week," said Nagelsmann on Friday. So Flick will continue to wait for good news from Munich.