National team: Nagelsmann takes risks: France test as a spark for the European Championship

When he arrived at the airport with the illustrious name of Aéroport de Lyon-Saint-Exupéry, Julian Nagelsmann had a premonition of the temptations of a big summer of football.

National team: Nagelsmann takes risks: France test as a spark for the European Championship

When he arrived at the airport with the illustrious name of Aéroport de Lyon-Saint-Exupéry, Julian Nagelsmann had a premonition of the temptations of a big summer of football. The French March sun gently caressed the national players around comeback star Toni Kroos. Blue sky. Great anticipation for a big game.

The fuss about pink jerseys, a historic change of supplier from Adidas to Nike and the general football doubts at home were far away. The national coach's entire concentration was focused on the European Championship endurance test on Saturday (9 p.m./ZDF) against the perfectly organized French football machine, which, in contrast to the chronically insecure DFB team, was extremely well-rehearsed.

The storm power of PSG superstar Kylian Mbappé could of course not be ignored as the greatest possible threat to the national coach's radical restart plans less than three months before the home European Championship. "We have to assert ourselves individually, but also as a team. We have full focus on Saturday," promised attacker Niclas Füllkrug.

The clearly best scorer with three goals in Nagelsmann's short and unsuccessful DFB time is now only a center forward backup in his role concept developed over the frustrating winter months. The last Dortmund player in the DFB squad accepts this without complaint, to the delight of the national coach. If you don't join in, you can go on vacation in the summer. Nagelsmann quickly conveyed this to his entire surprise squad.

Feedback from the World Cup finalist

"We had a lot of time to discuss what was needed. You don't get immediate feedback as to whether it's working," said Nagelsmann, describing the intensive debates among his coaching staff. This is going to change. At the Groupama Stadium in Lyon he will receive feedback from the highest football authority from the Équipe Tricolore. A defeat with a high humiliation factor against the World Cup runner-up and big European Championship favorites, like the recent 2-0 defeat in Austria, would dramatically weaken Nagelsmann's position shortly before the home tournament. All the nice ideas would be exposed as wishful thinking.

Apparently, Nagelsmann has decided on a starting eleven in a way rarely seen by a national coach. With the unambiguous assignment of work, the national coach also eliminates a shortcoming that lasted through the crisis months under his predecessor Hansi Flick.

Personnel fuss and playing minutes as a feel-good factor for deserving players like Leon Goretzka in the failed World Cup opening game against Japan (1:2) unsettled the players and confused the fans. Nagelsmann is countering this with a stringent leadership course. But does it work at the push of a button? Against a football superpower?

In the short training period visible to the media, he formed clear working groups before departing for Lyon. The conclusion: Marc-André ter Stegen replaces Manuel Neuer in goal, who was injured again shortly before the comeback. Defending in front of them in the new white and not the pink EM jerseys are Joshua Kimmich, Jonathan Tah, Antonio Rüdiger and Stuttgart's Maximilian Mittelstädt, who is the only one of the four remaining Nagelsmann newcomers who is allowed to play straight away.

A worker as Kroos' sideman

Almost three years after his DFB resignation, Kroos has a high-hitting six at his side in Robert Andrich. Captain Ilkay Gündogan plays in an offensive diamond with Jamal Musiala, Florian Wirtz and Kai Havertz. In attack, that sounds more like delicate football than the “worker” mentality that Nagelsmann missed so much.

"In the end, it's important that we don't find the 20 most talented individual players or with the biggest names, the biggest clubs. But that we find the right ones," said Nagelsmann, describing his EM credo. In November he argued completely differently. If the philosophy volte doesn't work, it will of course be questioned why the DFB head coach foregoes the experience of Mats Hummels, Niklas Süle and Goretzka. On the substitutes' bench, Leipzig's David Raum, with 19 international matches, is the most experienced player behind one prominent exception.

That's called Thomas Müller, with 126 international matches since 2010. "I'm up for any outrage. And on the offensive, with Flo Wirtz and Jamal Musiala, for example, we have players who have what it takes to carry us," said the 34-year-old. year-old Sports Illustrated.

"If I play, I'll be on fire. And if I don't play from the start, then I'll be on fire too. The coach decides how many minutes I get, and in those minutes I try to leave everything on the pitch "I have. I've always done that, and that's how I'll continue to do it," said the Bayern professional, who obviously wants to go on holiday as late as possible in the summer. His former club coach Nagelsmann will love these words.

Müller knows the France key

Müller also knows how to beat France. In the 2-1 win under Rudi Völler as interim coach in September, he scored the important 1-0. He also scored in the last win in France in February 2013, also a 2-1. It is the small statistical facts that German football hopes are currently relying on.

The French can fight against it. They have lost just one game since losing on penalties in the World Cup final to Lionel Messi's Argentina just before Christmas 2022 in Qatar. Precisely the test in Dortmund six months ago, which was less important for them in the ongoing European Championship qualification. Mbappé was on the bench for 90 minutes.

This time France's long-time successful coach Didier Deschamps, who can lose just as badly as Nagelsmann, has no reason for a closed season. "Of course France has a top team. If they throw everything into it, they have the best team in terms of individual player quality and the density of the squad in many positions," said Nagelsmann. All roles are clearly assigned before the classic in Lyon.

The expected lineups:

France: Maignan (AC Milan/28 years/13 international matches) - Clauss (Olympique Marseille/31/10), Pavard (Inter Milan/27/52), Hernandez (Paris Saint-Germain/28/36), Theo (AC Milan /26/23) - Tchouameni (Real Madrid/24/29), Camavinga (Real Madrid/21/13), Rabiot (Juventus Turin/28/42) - Dembelé (Paris Saint-Germain/26/42), Giroud ( AC Milan/37/129), Mbappé (Paris Saint-Germain/25/75)

Germany: ter Stegen (FC Barcelona/31/38) - Kimmich (FC Bayern Munich/29/82), Tah (Bayer Leverkusen/28/21), Rüdiger (Real Madrid/31/66), Mittelstädt (VfB Stuttgart/27 /0) - Andrich (Bayer Leverkusen/29/1), Kroos (34/106) - Musiala (FC Bayern Munich/21/25), Gündogan (FC Barcelona/33/73), Wirtz (Bayer Leverkusen/20/14 ) - Havertz (FC Arsenal/24/42)

Referee: Jesús Gil Manzano (Spain)

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