National team: Flick's clear messages ahead of a delicate World Cup mission

In the bracing climate surrounding the "One Love" bandage, national coach Hansi Flick and leader Joshua Kimmich tried to take a clear position in a calm tone of voice and focus on their football mission in Qatar.

National team: Flick's clear messages ahead of a delicate World Cup mission

In the bracing climate surrounding the "One Love" bandage, national coach Hansi Flick and leader Joshua Kimmich tried to take a clear position in a calm tone of voice and focus on their football mission in Qatar. The national coach and his 26 World Cup players, of whom Leroy Sané is absent at least at the start of the tournament, have to "do a balancing act" at the controversial World Cup in the Emirate that challenges them like never before.

Have sporting success, if possible immediately on Wednesday (2 p.m. / ARD and MagentaTV) against Japan, and at the same time fight for your socio-political reputation even without the announced sign with the captain's armband. Flick reported on Tuesday evening that the FIFA ban on the "One Love" bandage on Manuel Neuer's arm was "dissatisfied" and "shocked" by the DFB team.

"I think it's a shame that you can no longer stand up for human rights," he said unequivocally about the ban. He hides the tremendous outrage and lack of understanding at home as much as possible. "I focus on what I'm there for: football."

Kimmich: "We are all on fire"

Kimmich also positioned himself clearly in the official FIFA press conference. "I want to be able to look forward to a World Cup. We're all on fire. We all want to win against Japan. It's not our fault that the World Cup takes place here," said the 27-year-old.

He was "surprised" by the public uproar about the decision of the DFB and other European associations to bow to FIFA's dictates. "I had the feeling that a few weeks ago the One Love bandage was still being talked about. Now it's a strong sign." One that will not be visible at Chalifa International Stadium.

Before leaving for the matchday hotel in Qatar's capital, the national team had trained in the seclusion of the training center in Al-Shamal. Wearing a black long-sleeved shirt, Manuel Neuer unwound the goalkeeping rituals he had practiced before countless football games, carefully observed by the national coach. Flick stood in the center circle and held his palm in front of his forehead to get a better look at his captain in the bright sunshine. Flick, who was taciturn when asked about the line-up, spoke of a “super-good” final unit, except for the established managers Neuer and Kimmich.

"It's really bitter that Leroy is out"

The strong, seven-player Bayern block blew up without Sané. The 26-year-old left winger has knee problems, which are obviously not minor injuries. Flick looked worried: "Leroy is a difference player. He can turn a game on his own." But there is hope that he will be fit for the second group game against Spain. "It's really bitter that Leroy is out. He was in very good shape," said Kimmich. The 27-year-old spoke of "huge motivation" in the team after the historic 2018 World Cup preliminary round in Russia. "We know that was nothing at the last World Cup." Now you can do better: "We had to wait four and a half years for it."

What is Flick planning against Japan? This question has been on the agenda since the arrival of the DFB entourage in Qatar. Flick withdrew completely. Four days of secret training took place in the red DFB castle in Al-Shamal. Around the clock, Flick's focus before his first tournament as national coach was solely on the team and the tricky start against the Japanese, who were peppered with Bundesliga players such as Frankfurt's Daichi Kamada, which should immediately show the further direction of the tournament. A draw or even a defeat would immediately worsen the situation in the group ahead of the Spain game.

"All-in mentality" required

"It's a big task that we have ahead of us," said Flick. The first game, it was mostly groundbreaking for the German tournament. The "mindset", as the youngster Musiala said, is geared towards "that we can win the title" within the team. Flick believes he has nominated the right group for this, with the right footballing strengths and characters. With Neuer, Antonio Rüdiger, Kimmich and Thomas Müller as the axis, with a few wild youngsters and the late-call striker joker Niclas Füllkrug.

Flick did not reveal on Tuesday evening how he intends to deal with World Cup veteran Müller. The attacker had paused for weeks at Bayern because of various physical problems. Will he still lead the German offensive right away, maybe even right up front as a striker? The impressions in the preparation were apparently convincing. "Thomas is really an option. He did a good job in training," said Flick.

Sané's failure forces him to rethink and change at the front. Serge Gnabry left? Jonas Hofmann in? Or move Musiala from the center to the wing? Is there perhaps a coup at the start with returnee Mario Götze, who could possibly effectively fill in the Sané vacancy in the top condition shown at Eintracht Frankfurt in his first international match in five years? According to the national coach, the final hero of Rio 2016 is "in top shape".

It's about fitness, about readiness, about Flick's "all-in mentality" that has been demanded again and again. In a game that for many fans at home has long been much more than "just" the long shadow of the forbidden "One Love" bandage.

The expected lineups:

Germany: 1 Neuer (FC Bayern Munich/36 years/114 internationals) - 5 Kehrer (West Ham United/26/23), 15 Süle (Borussia Dortmund/27/42), 2 Rüdiger (Real Madrid/29/54), 3 Raum (RB Leipzig/24/12) - 6 Kimmich (FC Bayern Munich/27/71), 21 Gündogan (Manchester City/32/61) - 18 Hofmann (Borussia Mönchengladbach/30/17), 14 Musiala (FC Bayern Munich/19/17), 10 Gnabry (FC Bayern Munich/27/36) - 13 Müller (FC Bayern Munich/33/118)

Japan: 12 Gonda (Shimizu S-Pulse/33/34) - 19 Sakai (Urawa Red Diamonds/32/72), 22 Yoshida (FC Schalke 04/34/122), 16 Tomiyasu (FC Arsenal/24/29), 5 Nagatomo (FC Tokio/36/138) - 6 Endo (VfB Stuttgart/29/43), 7 Shibasaki (CD Leganes/30/60) - 8 Doan (SC Freiburg/24/29), 15 Kamada (Eintracht Frankfurt/ 26/22), 11 Kubo (Real Sociedad/21/20) - 25 Maeda (Celtic Glasgow/25/8)

Referee: Ivan Barton (Salvador)

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